I first got wind of the artist, Joshua Ladgrove, when he was performing under the guise of Dr. Professor Neal Portenza, many years ago at the Comedy Festival. This had followed an emphatic recommendation from a friend who professed to me that if I saw anything at the festival, it had better be Portenza. All those years ago, I thought he was both wonderfully silly and hilariously funny. Having seen his most recent show, which was awarded the coveted Golden Gibbo at the festival, my thoughts have not changed. My only regret is that I boarded the Joshua Ladgrove train when he was performing Neal Portenza and not when he was Jesus in Come Heckle Christ, a concept that, given my love of Monty Python, appeals to me enormously.

In addition to being a mouthful, Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove was off the wall (as expected) and stranger than it was funny. In the interest of defending his unconventional approach, Joshua had warned potential patrons via the synopsis, that his act was NOT a comedy show, rather a seminar in how to sell bilge pumps. Yes, how to sell bilge pumps. You can’t get much weirder than that. I must say, I’ve never been to a comedy festival show, or any other show for that matter, and found myself responding, as if at a Tony Robbins conference to Ladgrove’s instructions to the audience, “I say bilge, you say pump!”

Joshua Ladgrove is an expert at audience engagement, which I guess I would have known had I seen Come Heckle Christ. The only downside to being in the presence of a comedian that insists on harassing the audience is that for the duration of the show, you find yourself battling anxiety and wishing you’d grabbed an additional glass of wine for the road. I prayed that he wouldn’t call on me as he scanned the crowd for his next ‘victim’. I racked my brain for potential witty responses, just in case I was questioned.

Read any article about Joshua Ladgrove and you will invariably find the words, sketch, clowning and improvisation, all synonymous with his trademark and I’d have to say, they pretty adequately sum up his shtick. What I hadn’t considered though was just how solid an actor he is, which got me thinking about what else this wacky individual was capable of.

I’m conscious that my next claim will expose my tendency toward hyperbole but I think Joshua Ladgrove might just be a creative genius of sorts. His content is so original and delightfully unpredictable, that I don’t know how else to feel about him, he’s just brilliant. While this particular show didn’t appeal to me in the same way that the whimsical Neal Portenza had, it didn’t take anything away from the fact that Joshua Ladgrove is incredibly talented and that he’s developed something pretty special with this latest act. 

At the conclusion of the show, Josh did a modest thank you, during which, it was revealed that he had a director, Jason Marion. Here I was thinking that Ladgrove was the only wacky brain behind the madness that was this show. The comedian also confessed that his opening night had only eight patrons and that one performance went for 1hour and 50 minutes, much to the dismay of the tech staff.  In my opinion, this is all just evidence of the delightful unpredictability of this unique artist. I’m so pleased he has found a home on stage and a sell-out audience to market bilge pumps to.

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