Josh Pugh won his way to the Adelaide Fringe by becoming England’s Comedian of the Year. Quite a plaudit which, in his own words, "May be a reflection of [his] abilities, or the current state of English comedy."
Engaging and charming on stage, Pugh has a slick and strangely self-effacing confidence in his delivery that makes him easy to like. He’s the kind of guy you could probably easily lose a few hours with at the pub. His comedy is a bit like his mane of curls: quirky, self-deprecatingly suburban (without being obnoxious) and a little bit weird, like, "Accidentally kiss your dad on the lips weird". Pugh excels at odd-ball small-town mundanity, and his best jokes come from making us feel like we’re in his village pub: namedropping his mates, complaining about Nigel from the office, or charting which celebrities can be spotted at local parties (a 50th in a corporate box? Wolf from Gladiators). This is the gold of his set, clearly mined from his recent ‘writing retreat’: six-years in a tax-office in the Midlands.
Not every joke landed, and while some comedians can turn things around with some wry self-aware observations, this is something Pugh seems to still be getting the hang of. Though, the right audience certainly has a role in this, and there were some top-notch witty one-liners that whizzed past many (and that I overcompensated for by laughing perhaps too loudly). Some of the misses could be also a problem of translation, and occasionally his fast-pace delivery mixed with his accent meant small but important elements of the jokes can be missed. Unfortunately, Pugh wasn’t able to maintain all of the energy he began with, and seemed relieved to reach the end. However, if he keeps polishing what is good at – of which there really is a lot – I think we can expect great things from him.