Sam Simmons: Death of a Sails-Man @ Underbelly Cowbarn

Review by Cayley James | 22 Aug 2014

I’m not sure I have ever laughed as loudly or for as long as I did Friday night at Sam Simmons’ show in Bristo Square. The Austrailian comedian is back in Edinburgh and I must implore every fan of unhinged character comedy to make an orderly queue outside the Underbelly to see the singular madness of Simmons in action. Having only seen his work on the Alternative Comedy Experience awhile back I was intrigued by the hour long show on offer. Waiting in line, Simmons strolled out of the venue clad in a wet-suit, flip flops and an ill-fitting wig to survey his audience and check in with us all: “Hello, how are you? We’re gonna have a good show tonight!” he assures us before we file into what normally a lecture hall eleven months of the year.

Death of a Sails-Man is about a muesli magnate who gets swept off the west coast of Australia after an innocent windsailing excursion. The following hour is a swift descent into madness that involves a lot of hip thrusting, existential conversations with his subconscious, and the consumption of various liquids in a desperate attempt to remain ‘hydrated’. There’s a handmade quality to the show and Simmons never loses steam even as he’s searching for a prop or fudges a line. 

Speaking to a friend after the show she noted that Simmons seems to repeatedly split audiences 50/50. Which I is understandable… I suppose… because it is... weird. But his brand of humour, rooted in one-upping himself over and over and over until a cataclysmic finale isn’t mean spirited, antagonistic or obtuse – it’s pure fiendish fun that revels in its silliness. Like the stranger side of Monty Python or Reeves and Mortimer, there isn’t a non-sequitur or tangent he won’t explore – and although it’s absurd, the show is very well written and tightly produced. With a plethora of call backs, props and tech cues – the sound crew are the unsung heroes of this show – Simmons has created a comic fantasy that surges with adrenaline and genuine surprise. There isn’t an ounce of jaded cynicism in the whole hour of Death of a Sails-man. Rather it’s a showcase for a selfless comedian and a talented storyteller, and I’d bet my bottom dollar it’s the most fun you’ll have all year. 

Sam Simmons: Death of a Sails-Man @ Underbelly Cowbarn, 1-24 August, £8.50, £13