Jonny Lennard: Tale Blazer | Review by Steve Bennett
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Jonny Lennard: Tale Blazer

Review by Steve Bennett

Jonny Lennard is a great comedy writer, posing as much worse children’s writer. The conceit – and that’s the right word for this smug alter ego – is that he’s reinventing the entire genre to make it more relevant.

The format doesn’t particularly shine, and Lennard has a semi-detached delivery that struggles to make a connection to the audience, even with a amusing bit of participation towards the end. Back at the start he jokes about playing in ‘the world’s most generic room’, a nondescript seminar room that forms part of Edinburgh University’s ‘teaching hub’ when not pressed into service as a Fringe venue – and he never transcends his uninspiring surroundings.

It’s not for want of good jokes, however, for Lennard proves to have a strong comic imagination beneath the regulation quirky haircut, and the set boast plenty of sharp and stylish one-liners, some of which have the feel of being honed by the demands of Twitter’s strict word count, alongside more inventive longer passages.

His gruesomely hilarious reimagining of the Snowman story, for example, is an perfect example of applying fierce, obtuse logic to a situation and doggedly pursing it to its natural comic conclusion. The Brothers Grimm would be proud. Deconstructing the game of Hangman is nearly as fruitful, but his take on The Owl And The Pussycat – something Stewart Lee’s previously taken apart but in an entirely different style – is more hit-and—miss, often seeming a bit more pedantic than creative, but even this has its moments.

These sections are framed around the idea that he’s turned to children’s literature after being forced to babysit his step-niece, who is in danger of being raised a precocious hipster. So he reads extracts from three stories that avoid the usual sanitised approach, and reveal truths about the world and his own troubles. Feminists might baulk at his suggestion girls should be encouraged to become pretty princesses rather than Cabinet Ministers, for example, but once he explains, the typically smart joke is back on-message.

Lennard has oodles of original talent, and while Tale Blazer might not provide the best outlet for them, the best gags overcome the too-tight straitjacket of the format.

Review date: 20 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Assembly George Square

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