Postcards On The Edge: Leicester Comedy Festival 2010

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

It would surely be churlish to complain that a show billed as being inspired by saucy seaside postcards is old-fashioned; though Postcards On The Edge contains no real acknowledgment of the cartoon world of Donald McGill either – instead hijacking nostalgia to excuse their dated, unimaginative approach.

Bob Gessey and John Charnock – aka Stoolpigeon – are the most traditional of comic song duos; with each tune having the unsubtly jaunty musical phrasing that predates George Formby. It’s corny before you even get to the lyrics.

Talking of which, these are hugely predictable. There’s an old gag – possibly even a postcard scene – in which a man in a dentist’s chair grabs the medical man’s crotch and says: ‘Now, we’re not going to hurt each other, are we?’ This is Stoolpigeon’s opening song, taking a verse and half a chorus to get to a gag you probably already knew, then repeating it in slightly different ways. A one-frame joke is thus dragged out over three minutes, with no added comedy.

Elsewhere, their humour sounds like the Daily Mail when it tries to be witty, not quite grasping the very concept. Ooooh, a song about what life on a pirate ship would be like if health and safety had their way. Move over Richard Littlejohn.

Then there’s the song about a woman’s cricket team who bring in a burly Trinidadian man as a ringer, who subsequently gets them all pregnant, or the rather baffling tale of a castaway who fucks an ostrich. Thought this double (entendre) act would never put it so directly, of course, hiding behind twee euphemisms about his ‘bird’. But then there’s their song about the Cumberland sausages, which flunks even the simplest innuendo by making it too blunt.

You can’t deny the magical power of music to prop up this flaccid comedy. The perky melodies, performed on guitar and double bass, inevitably cheer up the audience, who are willing turn a blind eye to the weak jokes beneath.

This folk pub duo have old-school charm, and can be playful with their own banality, as demonstrated in a monologue about the phrase ‘Where’s the ’ospice,’ said in a broad Brummie brogue to a man with a nag, that teases us with the punchline we can see coming ten miles off. Unfortunately, it’s a rare moment of self-awareness, and the rest of the time they play with a predictably straight bat.

Their song about the first Birmingham astronaut – they come from the city, if you hadn’t guessed – has a light-hearted appeal redolent of the folk-comedy circuit of the early seventies where the likes of Jasper Carrott and Mike Harding wielded their guitars. But it stands as an exception against most of their set.

And it wouldn’t hurt if they learned their songs, so they could look up from their music stands once in a while: there’s very little eye contact when they’re in full flow.

If you’re pining for the Grumbleweeds, this duo might hit the spot. For the rest of us, there is a lot more inventive, and funnier, musical comedy out there.

Review date: 7 Feb 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Kayal

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