ED2014 Columns ED2014 Comedy

John Robertson: A ThreeWeeks nifty history

By | Published on Friday 15 August 2014

‘A Nifty History Of Evil’, one of three shows featuring a John Robertson at the Fringe this year, promises “2000 years of humans, sinister elephants, Polynesian zombies and Mickey Mouse”. All squeezed into sixty minutes.


But where did Robertson’s interest in history and all its evil doings come from? Childhood of course. The man himself explains.

I like history. The best part is that it’s over. The worst part is that it isn’t. When I was ten, I was given a book with a name like ‘The Big Boy’s Bumper Book Of Unusual Explosions And Fascinating Murders’. It changed my life, the same way those explosions and murders probably ended a few.

When everyone else was going crazy for yo-yos and Teenage Mutant Power Ranger Pokemon, I was the kid who’d say, “Yeah, but Vlad Tepes used wooden stakes to impale people through the butt!” The child who says these things will never be alone. There will always be counsellors.

I still wonder why we had to play Tag when we could have played Genghis Khan Loads Plague-Ridden Bodies Into Cannons And Shoots Them Over City Walls. We played it once. It’s basically the same game, but you chase a sick kid and then throw him over a wall. It’s terrific. I’m not saying the kid got better, but he wasn’t sick after he landed… or found, if memory serves.

Never give children information. A daycare woman once said to me, “That’s a very sadistic thought”. Leading me to ask my mother what “sadistic” meant. She replied: “like the Marquis de Sade”. I asked who that was and she told me he was the worst man who ever lived. Every child knows that anything that upsets your mother is worth knowing about.

I went to the library and did some research. This was before the internet, so I got the hard, straight facts instead of the supple, bisexual women. I’d like to take a moment now to thank the daycare lady for what’s become a lifetime interest in leather and religious satire. Thanks, daycare lady – it’s not every day that a ten-cent word can produce a career that’s worth at least double that.

This year, one of my Fringe shows is ‘A Nifty History Of Evil’, 2000 years of world history in one hour. What makes it nifty? Well, without me, you’d probably never know that in 1634 a French exorcist gave a nun an enema made of holy water. She’d been complaining she was possessed by a demon that lived in her lower intestine. The priest, being a man of science, fetched a doctor and a tube and after a few hours the power of Christ compelled the demon to exit via the back door. There you go.

We used to think evil was some great, supernatural force, but it isn’t. It’s just something we do. Sometimes we do it because we think we’re right, sometimes we do it for fun. I’m fairly certain that a priest with an enema tube full of holy water thinks he’s doing the right thing, but really, we also know he’s having some kind of fun that none of us will ever fully understand.

Of course, I’ll be trying to understand everything at 3.30pm at Stand IV every day this Fringe. Bring your nun outfit.

‘John Robertson: A Nifty History Of Evil’ was performed at The Stand Comedy Club at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS: www.thejohnrobertson.com