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Geoff Norcott

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Geoff Norcott Occasionally Sells Out

Geoff Norcott Occasionally Sells Out
© Adam Ethan Crow
© Adam Ethan Crow

On the surface of it, this is a show about the difference that’s opened up between crowd-pleasing club comedy and the more interesting work comedians do at festivals such as this.

Geoff Norcott wanted to perform at the Fringe last year, but couldn’t get into one of the Big Four venues, as he wanted, because they told him he was ‘too mainstream’. He was outraged the day he learned about the knock-back. ‘Mainstream? What a cheek!’ he thought as he drove to his next gig... Butlins in Skegness.

So this is a show he wanted to do for himself, not the marketplace, while also being about the compromises that are made in showbusiness, as they are in any job.

Norcott has done more than his share of stag parties, hen nights, armed forces gigs and corporate gigs; and from the sound of it has enjoyed most of them. The frisson of unpredictability feeds him, and he has no airs and graces about what audiences he will perform for.

But while knob gags pay the mortgages, there are also a couple of personal beliefs he wants to share – and they are not the sort of thing you often hear on the circuit. First, he believes in God, even if he thinks a lot of Christians are odd, he’s essentially taking Pascal’s wager that there’s so more to gain by believing than not. Second he believes that he’s a Tory. And that’s one of the last taboos in comedy.

What’s more he’s a fan of David Cameron, which even a lot of Conservatives might not own up to. Norcott likes him partly as he’s a social liberal, backing gay marriage, for example; partly because he’s ‘consistently a bell-end’ – a sort of affectionately nice-but-dim idiot rather than the embodiment of evil. That opinion might not play too well with those on the left who think he’s a media-friendly face concealing damaging changes threatening the NHS, education and welfare, so it is a bold move to come out and admit a soft spot for the PM.

As far as policies go, Norcott, a working-class Londoner, says he’s seen too many people become a slave to benefits culture; and suggests the state supports well-off pensioners too much: do you need a winter fuel payment if you’ve got a cushy final-salary scheme?

Norcott might be a friendly face of Conservatism himself. He’s certainly got a warm ‘man of the people’ charm and holds the room’s attention with a fine and friendly performance that means he can sell unpopular beliefs without becoming unpopular himself.

But off the leash of the clubs, he also spends rather a lot of time on exposition, and explaining his position on he above. Yes, there are jokes at the end of it, but he’s in no rush to get to them.

And, actually, the best routines don’t come from his politics or his faith, but from stories of those weird, near-disastrous gigs when he finds himself on the same bill as Rick Astley or Stavros Flatley. Again, Norcott’s club-honed instincts tell him this is what people want as well as providing a structural bedrock for an interesting, fun, and well put-together hour.

Tuesday 13th Aug, '13
Steve Bennett

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