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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

1 Ball Show 1 Lung Less


Genre: Comedy, Stand-Up, Storytelling

Venue: Just the Tonic @ The Mash House


Low Down

Terence Hartnett is a New York comedian who was here last year with his show about his testicular cancer. He hardly was expecting a return to include cancer and it spreading to his lung, but here we are…


If humour is the best medicine, Hartnett should simply be the healthiest guy in the room – why – cos he is a funny guy. This is a stand up show over about an hour which has pathos at its heart but also a lot of self-deprecation. It does not take much to admire someone who can go through what he has and marvel at his spirit. In the context of a comedy show, however such pity needs to be set aside.

Hartnett has stood up to talk about his journey through illness and we are there to judge if he can be funny about it. He can. Oh, and he is. And he can certainly tell a tale and make himself the but of it too – like when he saw a man taking his check your testicles advice on the train…

The best material is about the reaction to the cancer like how he has few double body parts to offer up, why Kevin’s arrival is never a good thing and the 12 cancer days of Christmas, his mother’s pride, and the last thing his girlfriend said to him – also loved the obsession with Lance Armstrong and the slipping in later of an oblique reference to his charity. Once in these topics Hartnett’s wry observations are contextualised, and we are off on a journey with him. It is important to remember that though there are gags, this is a story. It’s never going to be a TED talk (but then again…) but it needs to keep alive the relationship between us where the audience have bought into how the journey keeps going and what it is like at the end – we need to be invested in the destination.

And that destination includes someone new in his life – an Austrian woman who has stood by his bedside, and probably a lot more besides. And this is where I found the material a little troublesome. It is all down to sensitivities but attaching stereotypes to any nation should be something we have issues around. The days of Nazi Germany and Anschluss are well behind us, and whilst I found the one joke about her giving in so easily being typical of what happened in the ‘40’s funny, I was just hoping for newer material.

And yet I chuckled a lot. There is a lot of material which delivers a punchline as a clever aside and I really enjoyed that. I was not rolling about in the aisles, but that said a lot more about me and the fact that I had a man with one less testicle than I and one less lung who had made it up those stairs whilst I had struggled with two of each, mattered! No matter how much I found things funny, the context of it being about so serious a topic intervened at times. And so, it should, though I did not check myself on the train on the way home… (I didn’t take the train, but am fine, thanks for reminding me.)