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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The Incurable Optimist

Paul Mayhew Archer

Genre: Comedy, Stand-Up

Venue: Underbelly Bristo Square - Friesian


Low Down

Vicar of Dibley writer Paul Mayhew Archer delivers an hour of stand up comedy on the subject of his Parkinson’s and a life in comedy. It is a frank, disarming and funny hour of masterfully delivered, self-deprecating humour.


Paul Mayhew Archer is The Incurable Optimist – a prolific writer and producer of situation comedy. He has watched others perform his work all his life. He has facilitated, enabled, and nurtured talents in such long running hits as Vicar of Dibley and Mrs Brown’s Boys. There have been some less successful projects, too, which breeds resilience in any artist. And Paul’s resilience is remarkable. So is his generosity, honesty, spirit and incurable optimism…

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 58, Paul could have crawled under a rock, instead he fulfils a lifetime ambition, comes out from behind the typewriter and laptop screen, and takes centre stage to deliver a stand up comedy show on the subject of his condition. It’s a show that is predictably, and acknowledged, ‘a life in sit-com’, full of anecdotes and insights not just into developing Parkinson’s but working with some cracking talent. His showbiz tales are not denigrating of monstrous egos, rather admiring and warm-hearted tributes, his referencing of Parkinson’s avoids being bleak and champions the therapeutic power of comedy. But what he does is more than that, there are touching moments here about living with cancer and an insight into why Paul has always felt the need to entertain and find laughter, having been brought up in a house where humour was tragically in sort supply. He moves from dark to light effortlessly and achieves therapy for himself and his audience in simply making us laugh.

Paul may be a master of script-writing, what you may not expect to find is a master of story telling, timing and delivery. This he accomplishes like the seasoned pro that he is. Not a beat is missed, not an opportunity to laugh at himself is overlooked. The whole hour exudes charm and ultimately hope for us all, demonstrating, perhaps, how we can cope with the terminal condition that is life. What you get is exactly what is on the tin, and all the more uplifting for it.

Book early as this show is selling out. ‘The Incurable Optimist’ may not be ground-breaking, experimental fringe theatre, but it is informative, moving and poignant. Above all, Paul never loses sight of his target – it is an expertly conceived and delivered hour of comedy. As such, a Highly Recommended show.