Edinburgh Festival 2012: David O’Doherty, “Seize the David O’Doherty” ****

Pleasance Courtyard: One, 7.20pm

As someone who prides himself on knowing his way around the Festival, it’s a bit embarrassing to make this next admission: until this year, I had never seen David O’Doherty.

That’s a pretty big miss -and it’s not like I have an excuse. Friends far more fringe-savvy than I have, for years, been dropping his name into their lists of must see acts. I, for years, have been contriving to see other people instead.

How frustrating for them. I suppose they must feel just like I do, as less than 100% of the people I speak to each year go on to see Andrew Lawrence. What’s wrong with people?

Well, in this case I was the short-sighted buffoon who had dodged a seriously good performer for something like four years on the trot. In 2012, my guilt overcame me and I booked him, searching for comedy redemption.

I came to O’Doherty cold, without any real idea of his modus operandi. That was fortuitous, because it allowed me to emerge from his show like a critic who has seen an unheralded film and, unencumbered by preconceptions, found it to be excellent.

(Except, of course, that he was heralded. I was just being an idiot for 48 months.)

This show wove together a number of individually impressive elements, to create a charming, even touching aggregate experience. O’Doherty is a poetic soul, wounded by a failed relationship and intermittently singing us his wistful lament with the aid of a keyboard and some expertly pitched stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Between those musical interludes, he chats to us in a good natured way about the disappointments of his last year and the defining incident of domestic terror which inspired him to get back on the road.

I won’t spoil the show for anyone by exposing the substance of the anecdotes, but suffice to say I was wowed.

O’Doherty’s performance, for all the ‘impressive elements’ I mentioned earlier, is welded together by his personality: charming, melancholy and singularly lovable. I felt like I was watching the Adam Duritz of stand-up comedy, all perfectly chosen words, raw emotional wounds and frank honesty, delivered in such a way that you are willing him to the end and some enormous sing-along coda which heralds his resurgence.

A brief aside: It was very interesting for me to make comparisons between O’Doherty and the aforementioned Andrew Lawrence, whom I saw just 30 minutes later. Both are depressive comedians, but the Irishman is of the nostalgic and tender school where Lawrence is bleak and malevolent; if you have the time and the readies, I think that seeing them as a double-whammy is likely even more rewarding than either are alone.

Don’t make the same mistake I have, folks. Don’t ignore the chuckling, enthusiastic friends who tell you than David O’Doherty is more than worth the entry price, or the work colleague who raves on Monday morning about the feel-good show that made his weekend. Just short-circuit the whole, long-winded process and see the man before the festival ends in a week’s time.