An outstanding seventy minutes of absurd yet brilliant comedy

By: May. 13, 2024
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“I haven’t had a good wink in fifteen years”

Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show begins with a man, dressed in a tight black spandex costume and wearing a bin bag over his head, struggling to make his way to the microphone stand on stage. Luckily, another man is kind enough to assist him, shouting out directions from the wings. Once he removes the bin bag and reveals himself to be the man of the hour, we discover that Ellis is dressed as a black cat, with Sharpie whiskers and a cat ear headband revealed. He then uses his nose to turn on his iPad (the device doesn’t recognise his touch through the black gloves) and begins singing and dancing along to “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” from Cats, leaping into the audience and certainly making a strong first impression. 

Once he’s finished with his opening number, the self-proclaimed “Swiss Army Knife of  comedy” (though not for the reason you might think!) begins telling us a few stories about his life, having a conversation with an audience member about fridge space in house shares and telling us about what it’s like to live with six people who are all a bit dumb. But Ellis isn’t alone - he’s joined by a one-man band, a performer who plays the guitar, drums and keyboard and also provides some backing vocals as needed!

There are a range of bizarre moments throughout the show that will have you both scratching your head and laughing at the same time including comedy improvised rap with suggested words like Tutankhamun and sushi, some examples of TikTok comedy to illustrate the changes in online sketch comedy (preceded by hilariously slow screens coming down from the ceiling) and a running gag of singing pop songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Wonderwall” with passion and then immediately going into a new bit as if  nothing has happened. A ridiculous amount of commitment is put into these bits which makes them even better!

Some of the best parts of the show are ones in which Ellis shows off his dumb yet hilarious jokes and one-liners, some of which go over the audience’s head and others leading to huge laughs. One of these is an entire bit about how he aspires to not have anyone laugh at his shows because, that way, he’ll be able to put in twice the number of gags as fellow comedians. It’s also a benefit to the audience as they don’t have to pay for the time they spend laughing, which Ellis finds a bit ridiculous.

My favourite joke of the night was one about bringing a “goldfish with PTSD” to a pet masseuse, a joke Ellie claims usually doesn’t get many laughs compared to the other jokes in that particular bit. Other similarly bizarre jokes in this vein include raging over “the arrogance of the peaches” and talking about how he’s going to “rock up to the orphanage.”

Even when he is talking about more emotional topics like the importance of talking about men’s mental health or wanting to become a father after seeing a loving moment outside of a Burton Menswear, there is always a sense of anticipation as Ellis is always going to make things into a joke. While at times you can see the jokes coming, they are still just as hilarious - Ellis’s bit about the Burton Menswear had me in tears of laughter even though I saw it coming from the moment the story began.

In terms of audience interaction, Ellis appears to be having just as much as the audience, laughing along and thoroughly enjoying himself. One of the highlights of the night was when Ellis was asking audience members what their job was to prove a point about what he believes are “fake jobs,” and an audience member in the front row tried to shut down the interaction, which ended up being the correct choice as Ellis found it was a terrible example for what he was trying to prove. Another moment had him asking someone, “Does your lizard ever come home stressed?” While singing and dancing, Ellis has a tendency to interact with the audience, sometimes posing seductively and other times screaming lyrics into someone’s face.

Ultimately, Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show is an outstanding seventy minutes of absurd yet brilliant comedy. Whether he’s dressed as a cat and dancing around the Soho Theatre Downstairs or sharing some truly terrible one-liners, Ellis has the audience in the palm of his hand. It’s dumb but in the best way possible. Ellie promises excellence and he certainly delivers!

Phil Ellis’s Excellent Comedy Show ran from 9 to 11 May at Soho Theatre.


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