Late With Lance is one for the connoisseur. Ostensibly a parody chat-show whose "special star guests" never actually turn up, it's actually a highly-informed deconstruction of the whole experience of the Fringe – with a fair helping of musical-theatre references thrown in for good measure. It'll be popular with weary thespians and cynical hacks (hello!); but the downside of such industry-specific humour is that it relies on special knowledge, and on the day I attended it didn't seem to play all that well to the bulk of the audience in the room.
The eponymous Lance is the comedy creation of real-world musical-theatre creative Peter Michael Marino, and his love for that particular genre underscores the whole of his act. A recurring joke of suddenly bursting into Broadway lyrics very quickly gets old, but a couple of original songs are thoroughly worth your attention; I especially liked the one which comes close to the end, an outrageous but all-too-accurate analysis of the current fad for one-person confessional plays. As a (very) small-time actor, the fictional Lance embodies the fixed-smile cheeriness which is so familiar at this stage of the Fringe, and his patter is full of innocent barbs aimed at local targets ranging from Austentatious to Joyce McMillan.
Marino seems fully at home in Lance's role, a fact he demonstrates with considerable style during a couple of semi-improvised interludes. On the day I attended, he was lucky with the audience members he summoned onto the stage to stand in for the celebs who "haven't turned up" for his chat show. But you still have to make the most of the material you're given, and Marino hit just the right note – thoughtlessly rude in character as Lance, but quietly supportive in the real world – to elicit some surprisingly candid answers from his impromptu interviewees.
What Late With Lance really needs, to take the concept to the next level, are a few more glimpses of the damaged figure behind the cheery façade. The darkness does creep in towards the end, but it's a little too late by then; the transition from showmanship to insecurity is too abrupt to entirely believe in. There's something worth pursuing here, because the pressure of performing is a talked-about topic this Fringe, and Lance's superficially comedic character is an interesting vehicle with which to explore it.
I'd also advise cutting some of the casually edgy material; any mention of race, for example, will hang over a show, and in this case it doesn't add enough to Lance's character to justify the distraction it causes. So I think Late With Lance needs a little polishing, both to clarify its focus and increase its accessibility to a wider audience. But for now – and particularly if you're involved with the Fringe – it's an enjoyable and energetic hour, with plenty of insider's humour to watch out for.