Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Well known to fans of Comedy Central (and therefore unknown to me) Phil and Phil are great mates and have just won a prize to prove it. Double-L (slim, curly-haired, every mother’s favorite son) and Single-L (the cuddlier half of the duo, with a beaming smile that could solve world peace) talk to us and each other about the success of their friendship and in the course of doing so nearly destroy it. Warm-hearted fun.
I should declare an interest or, rather, a disinterest. I’m not a fan of live comedy. I find the fear of a comedy act tanking before my eyes too tension-inducing to cope with and I’ve been afraid of someone on stage engaging me in conversation since a magician called me up on stage when I was four. I’d be surprised if I’ll see more than another half dozen comedy acts between now and death.
That Phil and Phil manage to keep me engaged and often entertained for much of their show Britain’s Best Mates is therefore quite an achievement. They have an easy chemistry which is their bedrock and also their subject. They tell us they have just won an award as “Britain’s Best Mates” (if this doesn’t actually exist I’m sure it’s only a matter of time). They decide to share with us what makes their friendship work, which it turns out is “Ant’N’Dec” for reasons we gradually discover. In the course of sharing their analysis with us they start to get on each other’s nerves and it looks like their beautiful relationship could be over. We see a video montage of their life at home together, set to the howling of The Glory of Love, where they only communicate with cliches on their T-shirts. “I’m leaving you”, one says. “You complete me” says another. Will they sort it out before 6 O’Clock? Guess.
There are some great turns of phrase to be found in this seemingly spontaneous but clearly carefully scripted hour. Double-L describes Single-L having sex with his (Double-L’s) girlfriend as “taking her places I could never afford”. As their friendship hits rock bottom, Single-L refers to his former pal as being “ugly in spirit and face”. And, surprisingly, the sequence in which they co-opt members of the audience into their war – like parents using their children as a weapon – is the funniest part of the whole hour.
This is all sweet without being sentimental and affectionate without being effeminate. What a relief that lines like “we love each other but we’re, y’know, not gay or anything” are nowhere to be found. In this, Phil and Phil remind one slightly of Morecambe and Wise who were famously able to share not only their lives but also a bed in their sketches without becoming even implicitly fey. So it is here. And for a show about lads being matey the “we got drunk and it was great” quotient is commendably low too. Phil and Phil are truly modern men. Much like Ant and Dec, in fact.
Did this show convert me to live comedy? No. But it went a good way towards converting me to Phil and Phil. This is a light snack of a show, warm-hearted and generous-spirited. Well worth finding a space for at teatime. Grab a mate and give it a try.