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Edward Aczel’s show begins with a video of himself standing majestically on a green hilltop, conducting an orchestra that isn’t there. ‘The comedian is the conductor and the audience is the orchestra,’ he says, explaining the metaphor for stand-up. Indeed, to the musically savvy, Aczel’s waves of his baton make perfect sense, and are frequently hysterical. To those with no musical knowledge whatsoever, though, he’s simply a baffling weirdo holding a stick.
OK, we’ve stretched the metaphor a little too far, but you get the idea. Aczel’s been performing his low-key brand of anti-comedy since 2005, and has been delighting and confusing audiences in equal measure ever since.
In ‘Edward Aczel Lives in a Meaningless Shed’, the 46-year-old comic shambolically explores whether there is any meaning to life, via flipchart diagrams, self-loathing and badly auto-tuned songs. Anybody who’s seen an Aczel show before will know he refuses to conform to stand-up traditions; he speaks in a monotone drone, often reading off scraps of paper, and he rarely makes eye contact with the audience. ‘When I say “jokes”, I really mean “long sentences”,’ he sums up, before telling another none-liner and then blowing into the microphone. Of course, this makes for a patchy show, but when Aczel hits his stride he’s refreshingly different from anyone else on the comedy scene.
The beauty of the Aczel character is that it’s totally unclear what he’s setting out to achieve, or what he gains from performing. The clown-haired shambles explains, via a hand-puppet conversation with himself, that he wants to give up comedy, telling himself he’s ‘shit’, and the character clearly doesn’t enjoy the experience of being on stage.
That’s what makes Aczel all the more intriguing. ‘The more you look for meaning, the less you find,’ he concludes about his theme. The same is probably true of Aczel himself. But it’s certainly fun to keep searching for answers.
See 'Edward Aczel Lives in a Meaningless Shed' at the Edinburgh Fringe