Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh
Opened 7 August, 2005

Although stylistically a world away from the character of The Pub landlord, comedian Chris Addison is in danger of following in Al Murray's footsteps of a few years ago, as a repeated Perrier award nominee who's incomprehensibly always overlooked for the big prize itself.

Addison is probably the country's prime exponent now of the too-clever-by-half school of comedy. Where, say, Stewart Lee uses his impressive intellect to batter ideas into submission by interrogating them on their own terms, Addison gives them a quarter-twist anti-clockwise and bumps them against each other to see whether they strike sparks. In his hands, they always do.

Atomicity is nominally a show about the Periodic Table of the Elements, but where all too many Edinburgh Fringe shows chain themselves to their high concept, Addison simply sticks a few assorted objects (an illuminated globe, a periodic table mug, a big DNA double helix) on a table, shows a few captions in placards on an easel and largely continues riffing in his usual way.

And what a way it is. There's a standard comic technique of topping your own punchline, adding a further gag a couple of seconds along to prolong and intensify the laugh like one wave breaking on top of another. Addison regularly tops his gags four, five, six times over. It could be immensely annoying, except that it's entirely natural to his ebulliently inquiring mind and that each successive gag is always genuinely funny. He twits us about the time it takes us to get the gag about "the Bronze Age: the third best Age we've ever had", and at one point simply shouts out in delighted wonder, "This is my job!" He seems to get a great deal of job satisfaction; he certainly gives it.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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