FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see… Michael Odewale
Who: Michael Odewale
"Not everyone is academically gifted. My cousin is talented in other ways. For example he's an amazing drug dealer..."
The poster for Michael Odewale's #BLACKBEARSMATTER shows a close-up of him looking wistfully into the middle distance in warm retro hues. It could so easily be the cover of a legendary jazz artist's seminal work, or the portrait of a respected civil rights activist. There is something about the composition and graininess that implies a level of gravitas and nobility.
Within seconds of his show starting, Odewale dispels such thoughts when he first asks the crowd to applaud themselves for coming out and supporting a young black man in the arts, and then follows it up with "...that's actually mad patronising I'm not gonna lie." It sets the tone perfectly for an hour of examining race and the black experience in the most juvenile way possible.
It shows an impressive level of self-confidence for a young comic to actively portray themselves as selfish and superficial in their Edinburgh debut. This is after all a festival that craves pathos and deeper meaning. But Odewale recognises something that some others don't learn in a whole career - it's not about being cool or revered - it's about being funny and a little pathetic.
His stage presence is intimate and almost confessional. He paces to and fro as if beckoning you closer, and even his voice has a raspy hushed timbre. It lends itself perfectly to material of such ceaseless self-deprecation. Odewale explains his many dilemmas: how does he give to the homeless with as many people noticing as possible; what shoes does he wear in case of a terrorism attack; does he waste a Spotify skip on Michael Jackson if he comes up on shuffle.
Just when you're wondering who this cool, young, chilled out black comic reminds you of, it hits you - Larry David. No, really. If the comparison to the famously contrarian septuagenarian seems odd at first, it does figure. Like David, Odewale seems resolutely void of ego. He may not share the neurosis, but his hour is littered with awkward situations - often of his own making - which wouldn't be out of place on Curb.
Whether it's creating the most convoluted scenario involving Coldplay's Chris Martin to prove it can be okay for a white man to use the N word, or the dilemma of whether to tell a date she shouldn't taste his food because that'd out him as a stalker who knows of her food allergy, Odewale relentlessly casts himself as a selfish-serving fool. It all begs the commission of his own Seinfeld style sitcom - except perhaps less kosher with a bit more Nigerian seasoning.
You can buy tickets for #BLACKBEARSMATTER here.