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Gary Delaney: Purist

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Gary Delaney has been a comedian for ten years, yet this is his first solo show. That’s a lot of material to draw on, especially when you’re as prodigious and prolific a writer of razor-sharp one-liners as he is.

The gags are brilliantly crisp; often as short as five or six words, which makes this is a super-concentrated hour of punchlines, probably about 300 of them crammed in tighter than the audience in this way-too-small venue. You’re even a sheet with some more on as you leave, just to further boost the gags-per-penny rate.

So much for quantity, what about quality? Well, that’s impressively high, too. Some jokes are inevitably better than others, but even the weakest has had to earn its place ahead of thousands of competitors. They are eminently quotable, and the temptation for me to include loads here to appear funny by proxy is huge, but I’ll resist.

There are a couple of groaners in the pack, but no duds, with a range that spans from sweet bits of wordplay to deliciously bad-taste assault. Delaney makes no bones about that, putting a disclaimer at the top of the show that he simply finds the evil ones funny. You would have to be sensitive to get truly offended, as Delaney is clearly just having great fun. ‘I’m supposed to be deadpan,’ he admits. ‘But I keep laughing.’

It’s a good move. Deadpan is a very hard style to maintain over 60 minutes of one-liners and still keep the audience laughing. Stephen Wright may manage it, but he may well be in a minority of one. While Delaney doesn’t have the Knockabout pantomime of Tim Vine, his enjoyment is palpable and infectious. As other comics have found, a show like this needs a few devices to break it up, and he’s included a few games to dress up more gags in ways different enough to maintain interest.

And as for the woman who came out of the show muttering to her friend: ‘All he did was get load of gags and remember them – I could do that,’ that’s rather like saying Rachmaninoff just pressed keys. This is a hugely impressive collection of exquisitely crafted gags by one of Britain’s grandmasters of the one-liner. The show has certainly been worth the wait.

Review date: 7 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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