I have the West End Whingers to thank for turning me on to Bob Downe. They admit to having a bit of a crush on “Australia's clown prince of polyester” and I can see why. He’s a sweetheart.
Downe is a flamboyant lounge room singer and daytime television personality, the alter-ego of comedian Mark Trevorrow, who, since he was born circa 1984, has become an Australian institution, even featuring in the Aussie sitcom hit Kath and Kim.
Despite his Southern hemisphere roots, the good people of Edinburgh have claimed his as one of their own. This is his 14th Fringe - returning after a break of how long?, he asks. “Four years,” shout back the audience without hesitation, one man in the front row adding loudly, “too long!”.
They need no encouragement to join Downe in a sing-song, crooning, swaying and arm-waving along as he trawls, with cheesy lyric-fudging delight, through the “20 Golden Greats” of this new show’s title: from Men at Work (of course) to “King of the Road” (in tribute to his adopted homeland).
There are gentle jokes between the musical moments – references to gay marriage jar older members of the audience (they just want to see boisterous Bob sing, does he have to talk about that?), but he doesn’t let them off the hook too easily - while Downe’s ability to eke interaction from his audience, warmly naming and involving individuals as supporting characters to his comedy, is impressive.
Downe promises he’ll be back for the 2012 Fringe – and, having been won over by his charm, I’ll happily be back to check that he is.