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Yianni: Numb and Number – Edinburgh Festival review

Sunday, August 12 2012

Yianni's number-crunching hour adds up to a fun show on the Free Fringe


Yianni Agisilaou













It seems that obsessiveness is the new badge of pride for male comedians: Dave Gorman has a lot to answer for. Yianni’s new show, part of the PBH Free Fringe, is based on his recent diagnosis as being "mildly autistic". To demonstrate his love of all things mathematical, he has structured show around a countdown from 10 down to 0.

Sometimes he explains why he finds certain numbers so satisfying – the multiple symmetries of the number 8 for example – and sometimes he makes more tangential connections that make the numbers mere launchpads for more general stand-up.

Despite being quite intricately organised, this is therefore essentially a collection of 12 quite separate bits (it includes an epilogue – I sense that Yianni would find a miscount more irritating than a bad review). As a result, some sections work better than others, depending entirely upon richness of the subject area that he is aiming to mine. One section about the satisfaction of having exactly the correct change to pay for something contains at least one great fact that I won’t spoil here. In general, though, he's funnier and more comfortable when relating anecdotes or coming up with conceits that did not entirely rely on the autistic premise. As he himself suggests, he is not quite obsessive enough for it to be either a full-blown medical diagnosis or, to be honest, an entirely convincing comic persona. This disparity is actually more interesting than the autism itself that Yianni focuses on.

He’s clearly a fan of carefully written stand-up. A routine about the variant spellings and meanings of 2, two, too etc. had the repetition and tight structure of a Seinfeld routine but somehow didn't quite take off. No sooner had this similarity entered my head than Yianni launched into a longish bit about the comparative fears of death and public speaking – an idea that Seinfeld dispatched in a single pithy line.

Faintly damning as this may seem, Yianni seems to be a thoroughly well-intentioned and hardworking performer who has agonised over creating a satisfying and tightly themed show. In fact his underlying sincerity almost fatally undermines the show with a terribly overly earnest ending around the meaning of "zero" that is crying out for punch line to punctures the pomposity. The line never comes and instead there's an epilogue that reaffirms the show's well-considered structure without adding much to it. In general, one gets the feeling that Yianni is a performer who will get much, much better in time as he relaxes a bit and stops trying to be cleverer than his audience.

3 stars

• Yianni: Numb and Number is on at the Canon's Gait at 4.55pm


Review written by Pete Kelly

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