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|Paul Savage showreel|
Began comedy in 2007
Pentecost Festival Christian Comedy Night
We all know the devil has all the best music; but does he have the best comedy as well?
Judging from this gig in London’s Pentecost festival, it’s hard to tell. For, unlike the abomination that is Christian rock, Christian comedy seems harder to define, with the stand-ups on this bill barely mentioning their faith, let alone evangalising about it. Pun king Tim Vine joking about Jesus’s favourite snacks being something ‘savioury’ is about as religious as it got.
In fact the only defining criteria of a Christian act seems to be ‘no swearing’; and that is surely more a puritan hangover than a tenet of faith… you can’t see every Irish Catholic, for instance, being too fussed by the occasional f-word.
Even given the generally mild ‘Church of England fete’ ethos of the show, it still managed to feature a raunchy pole dance by two members of the audience, brought on stage by host Andy Kind when a flippant suggestion was taken seriously by a baying crowd. And after all, if we didn’t obey baying crowds, the Jesus story might have had quite a different ending.
Kind, who also organises this annual series of gigs, was smart to go with the flow, as it injected some spontaneity into his otherwise cruise-control compering, comprising the usual functional-but-uninspired ‘where are you from?’ set-ups and repeated orders to cheer on cue. Such material he had stretched no further than recounting a slightly offensive thing a Frenchman said to him on holiday 20 years ago.
But he judged the mood right with the dancing, and had the presence to bring the energy down to the right level thereafter, and perhaps those instincts are more important for an MC that being particularly interesting himself.
Geoff Norcott plotted a similarly safe passage, with some trite-but-true observations about the differences between men and women, particularly in relation to how they form friendships, contrasting the supportive nature of a bunch of girls with the ceaseless piss-taking of blokes. As a regular on the Jongleurs/Highlight circuit, he’ll have come across his share of stag and hen parties, so you know he speaks from a wealth of experience.
Everything he says certainly rings true, which is his appeal, though you might want for a few more surprises, both on this topic, and his recollections of his time as a teacher, living in fear of teenage pupils. But he delivers with poise and confidence, and a good sense of timing.
Personal anecdotes add the interest that’s sometimes missing from the more generic stuff; whether it be strangers comparing him to Michael McIntyre or a particularly witty tale about the plan to release a pair of live doves at his wedding, that didn’t quite pan out as intended. It’s worth hearing his set for this alone.
As for the Christian message, he left most of that to his T-shirt slogan, ‘deliver us from evil’ and some fretting about whether he could swear or not. He did once, and got away with it.
Billing himself quadruply cursed as a ‘single, dyslexic, insomniac from Wolverhampton’, youth worker Paul Savage has a few fine lines, but uses far too many feeble smart-aleck asides as punchlines, which can make him appear more sneery than witty.
He offers a few easy jokes about backwards Norfolk or snidely mocking youth slang by taking phrases like ‘it’s all gravy’ literally. Likewise, answering rhetorical questions in songs is straightforwardly done, with the response to Travis’s Why Does It Always Rain On Me? being almost exactly as old as the 11-year-old track itself.
His delivery is fast and imperfect, too, meaning what good jokes he has are not always properly showcased, as they sometimes turn on a fact you could easily miss amid the guff. And he does have some decent ideas on topics as diverse as the Three Musketeers and the international ranking of his hometown in the league of awful cities – but the balance is too far in favour of the banal. Sorry if that’ s unchristian to say so.
Savage wasn’t who anyone had come to see, of course… It was the magisterial wordplay of Tim Vine, on top form in a nightclub venue much smaller than the theatres he usually plays.
After kicking off with the perfect barrage of church-based puns, his blitz never let up as he galloped though pun after pun, pausing only for the occasional burst of music, which he could set some puns to. There was quite a lot more jaunty tunes than usual tonight, but they’re all part of his familiar yet devastating ‘cheesy entertainer’ shtick. Amid the many, many quotable punchlines, the biggest joke of the lot is that this is a ridiculous way for a middle-aged man to be making a living, and Vine exploits that cheerfully and shamelessly.
He never takes himself seriously, so even when he stumbles over his words, it’s another gag in itself, as are the limits to his adlibbing. But on the oneliners, he can’t be beaten for quantity – and even the quality is usually better than he gives himself credit for, such is the nature of his act that he has to affect modesty.
Ultimately, Vine proves you can’t spell onslaught without ‘laugh’, with the greatest gags per minute ratio on the circuit. Praise be!
|Date of live review: Wednesday 19th May, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
Really unfunny act. Pathetic jokes. Saw him at Frog and Bucket gong and he died miserably. A fitting end I would say.
Paul Savage works tirelessly at his craft. Not only is he in possession of some wonderful jokes, but he creates a natural rapport with any audience in front of him. I have booked Paul numerous times, and I know that my punters are in very safe hands when this talented comic takes the mic.
I've seen Paul a number of times and this review doesn't do him justice. He's a much better act than the review suggests.