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Tim Key: Masterslut

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

What is Tim Key? He’s a comedian, of course, but one with a strange, discombobulatingly offbeat rhythm. He’s a poet, who’s created an entirely new way of doing it, full of asides, footnotes and occasionally awkward, naturalistic language. And he’s a film-maker, whose wistful shorts punctuate a show that’s quirkily avant-garde yet never lets invention overshadow the funny.

Then there’s the ‘elephant in the room’, the bath full of soapy water that dominates the stage. Perhaps it is a metaphor for his relaxing, languid, immersive approach to comedy compared to the instant power-shower of certain other acts. Or perhaps it is just a bath, ’cos Key loves a bath.

This dominant prop is just one way Masterslut is more of a miscellany than his award-winning 2009 show. The poetry is less dominant than before, just one part of a mix that also includes statements of interesting facts, some tricksy crowd work, anecdotes about his brother – and a recipe for raspberry tart.

The verses, written on the back of laminated pornographic playing cards (some home-made) are as off-kilter as ever; sometimes as short as one-line, other times drip-feeding information so that a new punchline emerges with each pregnant pause. His way with words is uniquely precise and evocative, which spills over into the quirkily descriptive stand-up sections, too.

Where Key has previously played up the distance between himself and his audience, he is more playful with them this time, clambering through the rows after a great opening visual gag; getting a nice bit of banter going regarding a date in Pizza Express, and getting them to play a slow-motion version of that improv game where each player provides one word at a time, to great effect.

His own, considered, calculated anecdotes are again rich with slightly absurd ideas, anchored if not quite in reality, in Key’s almost dream-like version of reality. We get the most vivid glimpse into this when he finally releases the tension around the bath and plunges himself into it, like a junior-management version of sultry cabaret act David O’Mer, and his underwater world is projected onto the big screen.

Interestingly, he has one story that’s based on the identical idea used in the core routine of Richard Herring’s show this year – proof positive for the idea of synchronicity and coincidence; even if Key’s very shtick is that he’s slightly out-of-sync with everyone else.

That, and a couple of fleeting moments of self-indulgence aside, Masterslut is an original, ambitious, odd, mischievous and inventively funny to spend an hour. Better, even, than having a bath.

Review date: 19 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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