His first show of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe sold out, a stunning feat considering that artists are essentially tasked with promoting themselves. Which means Michael Che’s credits (Letterman, writer for Saturday Night Live, named one of Rolling Stone’s “50 Funniest People Now”) and reputation—a sort of social-comedy microeconomist whose deceptive meandering belies a philosophical mind that keeps things slow, steady and always in complete control—preceded him.
His second night as overflowing as the first, Che was buoyed by the high spirits and equally high expectations. He attracted all types and ages, and by the end had spoken directly with most of them. With the button-downed African male in the front row he commiserated on Egypt’s dearth of black skin: “I flew all the way to Africa and I was the only nigger there,” later continuing, “I would have converted if it wasn’t for their politics on titties and bacon. Some people won’t try bacon for religious reasons. I won’t try religion for bacon reasons.” To the blokes from Manchester: “My favorite thing about the way Brits talk is they say ‘cunt’ a lot. I don’t know how saying it got such a bad rap; it’s literally my favorite thing on the planet.” Even the female sound tech piped in on occasion, as when Che joking told the audience they’d been in a relationship for four days, but unfortunately she wanted kids.
He knew when to stir up crowd-work trouble and when to methodically turn attention back to his personal experiences and views, addressing big-picture topics like sex, aging, technology, racism, bullying and homophobia, bursts of laughter perpetually rippling across the room.
Near the show’s end, attendees grew perhaps a little too comfortable in the easygoing atmosphere. When Che paused to ask, “What was I talking about?” and a young white female truthfully answered, “Niggers,” it invited alcohol-emboldened chatter to spring up from every direction. Focus subsequently turned to a white-haired woman who demanded an explanation for the show’s title, as she’d been under the impression she’d be hearing about animation. Happy to reign her back to his side, Che complied, offering, “My favorite cartoon is Tom and Jerry, ‘cause it’s violent. But kids are watching it, so it’s ridiculous. You ever been slapped in the face with a rake? It’s hard! I’m taking about some serious shit, but what I’m saying sounds ridiculous coming out of my mouth.” But when she asked him to leave her with a clean joke, he paused. And mentally scratched his head. And paused some more, before finally promising that if she allowed him to comp her and a guest on August 18, he’d perform an entirely clean show specifically for her.
He never did get around to finishing the joke he’d left off at, and he certainly never meant for things to go quite so far off the rails…but it made for one hell of a show. And true to form, Che not only took it all in stride, but remained calm, quick-witted and professional throughout.