“Here in Yorkshire, we love to cycle… and not just to the dole office!” says Matthew as he shoots a promotional video for Yorkshire’s bid to host a stage of the 2013 Tour de France. A school friend of narrative comedian Kieran Hodgson, Matthew is the awkward friend in a typical group of teenage schoolboys – off-the-wall and a bit alternative but hilarious and well intentioned. Simon, the other childhood friend of Kieran’s, is the ‘cool’ kid who turns into a nervous wreck around Matthew’s older sister, Lauren.
These characters form the basis of Kieran Hodgson’s endearing and grounded observational take on growing up, inspired by his hero Lance Armstrong. The obsession that the three of these boys have for Lance takes them through their Scout group’s annual cycling race, organised by leader Rob; his life seems to be falling apart and he is in desperate need of some sympathy, but no-one ever told Rob that there is no point trying to get that from teenage boys.
Kieran himself is the slightly smug intellectual, awkward around girls and unable to stop himself from correcting other people’s conversational inaccuracies. Hodgson is first and foremost a very funny character actor, effortlessly bringing his childhood friends and influences to life with a tongue-in-cheek humour that the whole audience finds infectious. The added bonus with this comedy sketch show is how Kieran imparts his own opinions in each situation with brilliantly timed interjections that pinpoint the funny bits in each of his stories.
The overall set is well constructed with a clear storyline coming from what, on the face of it, is some fairly scant material about cycling and Lance Armstrong. Highlights that had all of us in stitches include teenage Hodgson’s ‘nonchalant’ fan mail to the famous Texan cyclist himself; the first cycle race in which each of the boys needs a little pep talk from their ‘inner Lance’; and the re-enactment of that infamous Oprah Winfrey interview whereby Lance admitted to blood doping and taking drugs during his Tour de France wins. In that last sketch, Hodgson’s looks to audience as Oprah were priceless.
The whole set is smooth, fluid and at no point awkward. It isn’t a ground-breaking or unique show, but for an hour in this tiny back room, Hodgson’s routine provides a great example of how top quality comedy at this festival is not restricted to the biggest venues. Indeed, its exclusivity works in its favour – nothing drums up an audience like the promise of being one of few to see this gold nugget of a show. The queues around the block speak for themselves.
Lance plays at the Voodoo Rooms (venue 68b) until August 30 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Fringe website.