Don’t bother going away and searching who Sean Kelly is – there are lots of famous Sean Kellys, ranging from musicians to poker players. This particular Sean Kelly doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. For anyone who has watched the British or American versions of Storage Hunters, which he devised and hosts, this will seem like a grave lapse.
Kelly is most famous for his rapid-fire auctioneering babble that can sound like Bargain Hunters after several strong coffees, but has also been doing stand-up for well over a decade. While he has a stand-up show at the Fringe, he also runs a chat show where he speaks to numerous guests who are all performing at the Fringe that year. It’s never particularly funny, but nevertheless it is all very pleasant, and hearing what Fringe performers have to say about their careers and shows is never boring.
The audience, however, are blown back in their seats when the charity auction for Help for Heroes gets underway. Kelly presents a number of different items to go under the imaginary hammer – including a t-shirt with himself on it, which may be the paramount of delightful narcissism at the Fringe this year. Rick Samadder from the Guardian once described Kelly’s auctioneering style as “like someone has attached electrodes to a woodpecker” but this is not a criticism. If anything, hearing him going through the auctioneering lingo as quickly as he does, selling off all these random items for charity, will leave the audience feeling deeply impressed.
His interviewing skills, though, do need a bit of work. He is good at reacting to what the guests are saying, but dedicated far too little time to one of them compared to the other two, who both work on the same production. Kelly is apparently far more into Shakespearean rhyming couplets than into shows by young British comedians (who knew?).
It’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with Sean Kelly. His bubbly enthusiasm is irksome but also rather pleasing, because he at least is clearly having an incredible time. And this does show – it makes a big difference when the star of the show is doing what he loves, and Kelly clearly does. The charity auction at the end is also a nice touch, and actually provides some of the afternoon’s funniest moments.
Sean Kelly’s Chat Show is a show that those watching will have to be patient with. It starts off ok, but not especially interesting or funny. When the auctioneering starts, however, then the strange hypnotic enjoyment that made Storage Hunters one of the most successful daytime TV shows starts to become clear. Kelly cannot be faulted for his enthusiasm or charitable nature, and fans of his will love every minute, but the show itself has its shortcomings.
Sean Kelly’s Chat Show
Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302)
Until 27th August
Photo credit: © Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society