Josh Howie: Chosen, Pleasance Courtyard
Josh Howie’s journey to Edinburgh has been wind-assisted by a flurry of media interest. The attention has stemmed from the fact that he is the son of the PR guru Lynne Franks, who was the inspiration for Absolutely Fabulous. That his family is already, albeit indirectly, part of the UK’s comedy heritage has not prevented Howie from trying to make his own mark on it, however. In fact, standing apart from his family is the essence of Howie’s autobiographical show.
Howie rediscovered his mother’s lapsed Judaism (though “when she sees a bagel she becomes more shrill,” he tells us) when watching Exodus with his grandmother. From that moment on a teenage rebellion was born, and one that put paid to the Buddhist regime he lived under between the ages of seven and 16, the Eighties strain of which he describes as: “less about being at one with the universe and more about owning it”.
Looking every inch the bespectacled film geek, a cross between Woody Allen and Hank Azaria, Howie guides us through his journey into Judaism that took him as far as training to be a rabbi. The nervous energy on which Howie runs comes from his eagerness to put across his story but also to jump on to the next of the many jokes he has peppered his show with.
These gags range from puns about the rabbinical view of homosexuality (“two schlongs don’t make a kike”) to transposing differences between Israelis and Jews on to Chris Rock’s famous ‘”Niggers versus Black People” routine.
Throughout the show, Howie projects images on to a screen behind him that shows everything from his baby photo with his “Fagin-like” hands through to his attempts to start a Jewish hip-hop band.
What’s interesting to note is that he, unlike other comedic fans of the visual aid, makes a point of turning his projector off when he wants us to look at him and not at a photograph.
When a friend of mine accompanied me to a London preview of Howie’s show, he told me that he was astonished that the whole show centred around the concerns of its author. My friend would no doubt be positively disgusted by the (inevitable) presence of the “Me Show” at the Fringe, which usually involves listening to someone else put the past year of their life into an hour. From my point of view, it’s refreshing to see someone like Howie tell a wider story about his life while taking comic opportunities at every turn.