Mat Ewins: Once Upon A Time In The Jest | Review by Steve Bennett
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Mat Ewins: Once Upon A Time In The Jest

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Mat Ewins is daring to be different with this odd collection of set pieces, based around his preposterous idea that great historical figures were actually stand-up comedians. Henry VIII had an apparently never-ending supply of mother-in-law gags, for example, thanks to having six of the beasts. Talk about old school.

It’s a ridiculous premise and takes a stupid amount of work to pull off, such as cobbling together a hefty Tudor outfit from bathmats. And complaining about the extreme lengths he has to go to to pull off his wild ideas adds a rewarding layer of self-aware wit on top of the historically themed gags, as he breaks character to berate his temporary tech or whinge about the cost of all this nonsense.

As well as Bluff King Hal, Ewins reimagines Cleopatra as a Seinfeld-like observational stand-up – complete with the sitcom’s sound stings just in case we didn’t get the joke – and even makes the Apollo 13 lunar unit into an offensive shock comic. I did say it was different...

There are some great gags in the various guises, drawing on historical tidbits to reach the punchline. However he tends to push the central gags a little beyond their point of funny. In any cane, none are quite as amusing as the strange combination of inventiveness and shoddiness of the costumes, and the desperation of a man who’s put so much effort into something so silly.

In his more unscripted moments, he reveals something of an insecure worrier, endearingly misguided in his fussy attempts to charm, which works well with the low-budget ambition of the set pieces. An odd ending with a video game gives him a chance to banter, of sorts, but seems strangely tacked-on.

And lest you get the impression all is low-budget, Ewins showcases some slick entertaining videos to cover his elaborate changes of outfits, including a funny opening film that will strike a chord with comedians everywhere.

It’s an interesting concept, producing a funny if flawed hour.

Review date: 24 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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