A voice announces a content warning before Nick Elleray begins. The same voice gives another warning, and then another. Then the voice asks us to clap, and the man behind it takes the stage.
It’s Nick Elleray. There never was an announcer. He’s at ease on stage, exuding worldly patience rather than overt personality.
Female comedians often talk about being a woman. Comedians with disabilities often speak at least a little about what sets them apart. Elleray quickly calls attention to his expressionless face and flat, calm voice. He says he resents deadpan comedians, who marginalise truly inexpressive people. Then he jokes on how unremarkable it is to find an Australian like himself in Edinburgh. Elleray’s act is almost the opposite of a gimmick act. His jokes are not deadpan but they’re the opposite of explosive, as if he’s trying to slip the smartest lines he possibly can past his audience.
Ellerays routine meditates largely on what it is to be a man, to be Australian, and to be past the proverbial lunchtime of one’s life. He has an easy charm and steady momentum that keeps the audience poised in anticipation for his next curveball line. One highlight sees Elleray reminiscing on cat-sitting, cat-stretching and getting stoned with Ding, his feline charge. His brothers are a motif that recur one last time at the darkest note in the act, where Elleray describes the aftermath of one brother’s passing. But from this man’s mouth, everything from marijuana to the mortuary passes with relative calm, wry commentary, and unexpected laughter.
Final verdict: time and money spent on Nick Elleray is time and money well spent. He’s great.
Nick Elleray: It’s Been Emotional at Just the Tonic at The Grassmarket Centre, Aug 2-26 Aug (not 13), 4.40pm