Littlest Things ★★★1/2

Here’s a useful bit of information for any lads looking to get lucky during the Fringe: Tiernan Douieb attracts a curious amount of really good-looking girls. Well, his show does anyway. Littlest Things is about the little nice things in life, and Douieb is one of them, a pocket-sized pun-and-fun machine who has to grow a tiny beard to get served in pubs. Nice lasses love that kind of thing.

He begins the show in suitably thoughtful fashion, gratefully handing out miniature paper hand-fans for those who’ve chosen to ignore the big prime-time names elsewhere. Still, this isn’t the most energetic crowd, emitting gentle titters rather than the belly laughs he’s used to. They might be slightly stoned actually, as the stuffy cave was doused in air-freshener just before the show began, which made it smell “like a toilet” according to one punter.
These Edinburgh shows, it’s all about how you start.

No matter, as Douieb has more than enough energy to go round,
and he’s a hugely engaging onstage presence. There are no artsy tricks here, no deconstructing of the genre, no surrealist flights of fancy, just a chap telling us about his life, with lots of silly jokes thrown in for good measure.

It’s a refreshingly honest hour. True, he could develop a few of these ideas: there’s a good gag about horseboxes, for instance, that a more out-there comic might then spend 20 minutes working into a whole bit, but which hurtles past swiftly here. “Done, done, and onto the next one,” as Dave Grohl once sang, possibly about Douieb’s show last year.

But hey, this show isn’t about horseboxes (see Paul Foot’s show if you’re after lengthy horse-based material), it’s about Tiernan, and there are unforeseen depths to Littlest Things.

Having espoused the benefits of doing nice things for others, he then hits us with an emotional hammer blow, after a clever set-up. It’s a genuinely moving, troubling moment, and takes the show in a thoughtful and unexpected new direction.

This isn’t the finished article but Douieb is a wonderful storyteller and clearly has the nous and nerve to negotiate the peaks and troughs of a proper hour.
A little more homework and this time next year he might just be the next big thing.