Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Orlando Baxter used to be a teacher, the sort of teacher whose vocation is founded on a desire to ‘give back,’ to provide the same inspiration to troubled teens as a former mentor did for him. Mr Miller, name-checked in the show, clearly did a good job: young Orlando rose from his disadvantaged roots (absent father, drug-addicted mother, poverty, the projects) to be the first in his family to graduate from high school, then college, before making a career for himself as an educator.
It’s clear throughout that he really cared for the kids he taught, even if, ultimately, his ambitions lay elsewhere. Comedy was, he tells us, always where his heart really lay – and his students called him out on his ‘follow your dreams’ inspirational shtick, pointing out he wasn’t following his own advice. And so he did. And education’s loss is comedy’s gain.
Okay, so he doesn’t seem quite like the finished product: a lot of his set is purely anecdotal, sounding a lot like the unvarnished truth without that extra push towards a punch line that would elevate its comedic impact. But he had a strong stage presence and is immensely likeable; he certainly has the potential to be very good indeed. He has an easy manner and interacts effectively with the audience, generously allowing time to explore one particular man’s response to what must surely have been intended as a rhetorical question. He handles this well, making space to find the joke without derailing the show.
Baxter may be critical of the US education system, but ultimately he’s a good ambassador for it. I think this man is one to watch.