Friday, 15 February 2013

FESTIVAL DIARY DAY 8 - Tony Law shows us how it's done

After my brief descent into madness on Wednesday it was back to normality last night.Well, if you can describe Tony Law's Maximum Nonsense at Firebug as normality, that is.

Bizarre and wonderful - Tony Law
The first thing that strikes you about Law is his appearance - electric shock hair and medieval beard, dressed in curious, nautical clothing. He immediately marks himself out as a clown, and this helps him to say anything he likes without being taken too seriously. This effect is heightened by his constantly changing accent and intonation, one minute acting the daft Canadian pig-farmer, next the right-wing friend of Clarkson from the Cotswolds, then the booming Roman emperor and so on.

His set has a constantly shifting, steam of consciousness feel to it, as if you've accidentally wandered in on the fantastical ramblings of a mad sailor, for example lengthily describing the two sides of his imagined family (one pirate, one viking), frequently digressing along the way with made-up historical and geographical details. His simple joke about two elephants in a bar snowballs into a directionless conversation between four elephants, each with different accents, eventually becoming the surprisingly grand musical number Tony Doesn't How To End His Show.

On the face of it, enjoyable nonsense. But beneath the surface his whole act is much cleverer than it seems. He is clearly been studying the work of his peers and is on a mission to take comedy cliches and destroy them one by one. First, the comic staple of laddish audience banter is ridiculed at length; so is the notion of being 'from' somewhere and using that as the basis of your material. He also uses his talent for absurdity to have a dig at overnight successes such as Jack Whitehall, as well as comics who have made a living causing offence. He references geeky stand-ups such as Robin Ince and musical comedians such as David O'Doherty whom he admires, so he tries to copy their style onstage, but of course always heads off at an unexpected tangent.

Billed as an hour show, it actually went on for an hour and forty minutes and the crowd were still yelling for more at the end - the first time I've witnessed this during this year's festival. A great success then, and one that has been a long time coming. Law has been on the circuit for many, many years and is only now finding the success and widespread recognition he deserves, having gradually honed his act into something bizarre and wonderful, and completely unlike anything else on the comedy menu.

I'll be back tomorrow with more half-baked opinions from the world of comedy. I'll be seeing Doc Brown at Firebug and Devvo at the Looking Glass tonight. Hal Cruttenden's cancelled so I'll see what other delights I can find mid-evening to report on. Until then...

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