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Brighton Fringe 2024

Steve Parry: The Last of the Famous International Amateurs

Neat Productions

Genre: Comedy, Stand-Up

Venue: Laughing Horse at Temple Bar


Low Down

Faced with a mid-life crisis and unfulfilled dreams, what is a middle-aged man to do? After a lifetime of being nearly famous and working as a writer on some of the nation’s favourite TV shows, this is one man’s attempt, through stand-up, poetry and song, to create something meaningful.


It was 8.30, the last slot of the opening three-day weekend of Brighton Fringe and a small but determined audience gathered in the upstairs room at the Temple Bar Pub to see Steve Parry lay his soul bare. As we wait, loud pop music beats; it is high energy and, as it turns out, a foretaste of what is to come.

Steve bursts into life, delivering the show’s opening with gusto. The passion and energy belies a man of his advancing age and physicality, but it works; we are swept along in a tsunami of comedic energy.

Our host has worked as a writer on some of the nation’s favourite TV shows by profession, and it’s immediately apparent that Steve is a good writer. He constructs jokes, scenes, and stories that work. The joke forms come with various setups and payoffs, and he slips in some straightforward puns, although it is easy to miss some of these gems.

He mixes songs, poetry, and spoken word to produce his own distinctive brand of stand-up. While most of the elements work well, there is a case for less is more. Overloading an audience can be dangerous; if they can’t keep up with the comic, the connection between performer and audience becomes broken. A slightly shorter set would allow the rest of the show to breathe.

The first thirty minutes fly by, driven along by Steve’s energy and passion. The chaotic delivery is a joy to watch. He regales us with stories from TV Land, revealing his shattered dreams and frustration at an iniquitous system that triumphs celebrity over talent. But against all this, he still has hope; he believes things can change, there are signs that not all is lost.

His comments on society, culture and our world are driven from the left of the political spectrum. They are insightful and informed and delivered with humour. With all that, Steve displays self-awareness; he knows his effect can be full-on. Within the context of the show, it works for and against him.

Steve has spent most of the last 25 years writing rather than performing. Unsurprisingly, some of the finer points of stand-up delivery are missing. It would be easy to see this as a negative, but I don’t think it is. There is a naivety to it that renders this show honest and heartfelt. It builds a connection between the viewer and the presenter. Undoubtedly, as the performing skills improve, this balance will change. The chaotic furiousness that marks it out in favour of the inherent cleverness of the writing will eventually lead to a more professional delivery.

While he is not a singer, the writing of the songs and the energy of the performance carry them off. In fact, it’s fair to say that better singing would probably undermine their impact. They are part performance and part militant protest but with rhymes.

Ultimately, we reach the finale. It is a good one. The show’s narrative is complete, the title and the ending meet, and we are satisfied.

This show was written to fulfil a frustrated performer’s dream, one who knows how to write funny and interesting material. Steve is self-aware and happy to hold himself to the same scathing comic lance as some of his subjects. He delivers this show with passion, energy and a lot of self-deprecation. Every so often there is a surprise, and you find yourself carried along by the manic delivery.

But there is a case for less being more; a judicious edit may help the show flow.

The audience appreciated that this is more than conventional stand-up. Even at the fag end of a long rainy Brighton Bank Holiday weekend, they were still laughing and clapping.

Don’t be put off by the inclusion of poetry and song; they don’t dominate the show but act more as punctuation. The rhymes are clever and funny, the avant-garde, rock and roll punk song being a case in point. (Yes,  I did type that correctly.)

As for the enthusiastic amateur, his skill and confidence will grow as he continues to deliver this set. The last of the international amateurs is moving on.

Steve Parry is worth seeing. The stories, jokes and celebrity tales are funny. The honest passion of his life adds to the show and the social commentary is on point. If you like your stand-up to be a bit different, this may be the show for you. Here’s to a middle-aged crisis in full swing.