An Oxford classics graduate, Andy Zaltzman emerged on to the stand-up scene in 1999, when he was a finalist in the So You Think You're Funny? talent contest.
The following year he was chosen to take part in the well-regarded Comedy Zone showcase at Edinburgh, and also made the finals of the Daily Telegraph Open Mic award. His solo Edinburgh debut, Andy Zaltzman versus The Dog Of Doom, was nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer award in 2001.
Zaltzman has worked extensively with John Oliver. In 2004, they launched a satire night in London and Edinburgh, called Political Animal, which transferred to Radio 4, and since 2007 have hosted The Bugle, a topical podcast for Times Online. They also wrote and starred in three series of The Department, again for Radio 4.
He performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for the first time in April 2007, where he won the coveted Piece of Wood Award for the comedians' comedian.
Zaltzman has also written for several series of Bremner, Bird and Fortune, and in November 2008 his first book, entitled Does Anything Eat Bankers? And 53 Other Indispensable Questions For The Credit Crunched, was published.
Andy Zaltzman Videos
Andy Zaltzman: Satirist For Hire
As topical comedy’s king of the convoluted, Andy Zaltzman loves a challenge. He delivers his contrived metaphors and laboured puns with the self-satisfaction of a Countdown champion who’s just unpicked a particularly tricky conundrum – and although the skill may be a very precise one, it’s intellectually impressive.
For this tour, he’s playing on the ‘difficult’ setting, asking audience members to suggest in advance the sort of topics they want satirised. While some topics will inevitably recur, a lot in tonight’s show is bespoke as he’s asked, for example, to mock the autumn equinox. And in one stand-out section, he’s asked to comment on Carly Rae Jepsen – which prompts him to deploy some home-made audio chicanery to prove that she’s a far deeper artist than Jimi Hendrix. But that iconoclasm’s nothing compared to him muddying the reputation of the sainted David Attenborough.
The Satirist For Hire format certainly provides a different subject from the usual headlines, and provides Zaltzman a relief from trying to ‘take a sideways look at…’ depressing issues such as the butchers of Islamic State. Still he covers some of the lead news stories in his own time: after a perfectly overblown and pun-packed wrestling-style intro, he kicks off with observations about Ed Miliband’s conference speech delivered that very afternoon. You can’t fault the topicality, even if the ideas are still half-formed.
His labyrinthine analogies score best… it’s a uniquely-wired brain that looks at Greece’s economic woes then liken the nations to a man who’s trapped his testicle in a George Foreman grill. Wilfully obtuse wordplays are another speciality, often accompanied with a commentary on just how smart he’s been, or the occasional reprimand after jokes that ‘deserve slightly more than you’re giving credit for…’
Despite his obvious flair for such intellectual gymnastics, the hour – or closer to 75 minutes tonight – remains hit-and-miss. That much of the material is for one night only, without the chance of being hones, is both a blessing and a curse.
Zaltzman admits he’s still grappling the format, which also incorporates a Honker Of Truth, A Spike Of Destiny and a Satirax 3000X – a pineapple-cum-radio only twice called into play to cover a bit of admin with prerecorded gags. But it would be to miss the point to call this paraphernalia contrived – as that’s his M.O.
For this brainbox comic is no polemist – indeed several times he refers to himself as a ‘neutral’, perhaps subliminally lobbying for more BBC work. Instead of seeking to convey his opinions, he does a sort of Scrapheap Challenge on the issues in hand, seeing within the scattered detritus of the news the components of a comedic charabanc, which may or may not function as hoped when finally put together. But even when it fails, he’s good-naturedly self-deprecating about it, and may, if you’re lucky, dust down an elegantly-constructed pun to cover the deficit.
Andy Zaltzman Boldly Unbuttons The Cloak Of Civilisation, But Is Perplexed And Perturbed By What He Finds Lurking Beneath.
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Political Animal  Andy Zaltzman Boldly Unbuttons The Cloak Of Civilisation, But Is Perplexed And Perturbed By What He Finds Lurking Beneath.
Honourable Men Of Art 2008
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Political Animal – Scottishreferendogeddon 2014 Andy Zaltzman: Political Animal