Date Of Birth: 06/09/1958
Best-known for playing Sgt 'Motor Mouth' Jones in the Police Academy films, Michael Winslow is a master of vocal gymnastics who can imitate incredible sound effects using only his voice - whether the frenzy of Jimi Hendrix playing the guitar or the roar of a jet plane. He has also starred in and provided voices for Spaceballs, The Simpsons, Gremlins, Family Guy and King Of The Hill.
Talk about a talent. Michael Winslow brings you the guitars of Hendrix and Page, the special effects of Star Wars, the singing voice of Louis Armstrong… and the comedy of a nondescript mid-bill road comic.
But we shouldn’t be too surprised as he is, after all, the man even Udderbelly staff could be overheard billing as ‘the bloke who does the sound effects on Police Academy’; which is a much more evocative description than the standard CV of Letterman appearances and the like read out as his introduction.
No one’s here to discover an insightful artist’s unique comic take on the world, but instead we want to be amazed at his vocal dexterity first-hand. And on that front, no disappointment, as this was a show of more than enough jaw-dropping set pieces to earn him a standing ovation at the end, loosely linked by some nondescript stand-up.
When Winslow does his superficially tired routines about flying, daytime TV or the frustrations of self-service supermarket checkouts, he has the arsenal of impressive self-generated effects to back it up. Most comics might drop in little re-enactments to emphasise a point or provide punctuation, for Winslow such asides ARE the show, and the monologue around it mere padding.
Compared to many, his chat sounds stilted and rehearsed, overusing an exaggerated eye-roll pretty that’s pretty much the only non-verbal technique he has. Similarly, the set-ups follow a predictable formula: how he can’t go into Tesco/DIY stores/restaurants any more because of the mischievous pranks he allegedly plays. And if he’s to return to Britain after these two nights on the South Bank, he might want to double-check some of his references: Redd Foxx, Laffy Taffy and even Cheech and Chong aren’t as universally recognised as he thinks they are.
But when he launches into a montage of generic ethnic background music, a riff-perfect rendition of Whole Lotta Love, or a scan through the AM radio dial of classic rock, smooth jazz and pretentious classic stations, you can’t help but be wowed; all failings of the comedy are forgotten in an instant.
Into the mix goes some impressive beatboxing, impressions of the likes of Mike Tyson, Stevie Wonder and Doc Brown from Back To The Future and – of course – the out-of-sync dubbing of a kung-fu scene which made him the funniest thing in Police Academy (admittedly an honour on a par with being the fattest supermodel, most reasonable BNP member or best footballer in the England squad).
Varying the delivery style to include overdubbing some film clips, rapping, singing as well as the more descriptive stand-up, there’s enough texture to just about sustain the hour – quite some feat for what is essentially a gimmick. But it’s a gimmick he’s spent 32 years perfecting – so come for the spectacle of his unique talent, and treat any laugh as a bonus.
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