Tony Carter's Evil Army
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2004
The first and last of the New Deal comics - an ill thought out and badly executed European initiative - Carter battles on with this thing called "comedy", desperate to convince himself if not his audience - that he can "make a reet good go of it". Early reviews have been positive ... and his New Deal advisor is "relatively pleased with his progress".
It's nice if rare to discover new talent at the Fringe that has actually emerged from the Edinburgh's year-round comedy scene; which makes Geordie Tony Carter even more of an exciting find.
The character, the brainchild of comedian Will Andrews, is billed as the world's first New Deal stand-up, an out-of-work youngster given government help to learn his trade.
Thus he takes to the stage with a sheaf of dog-eared notes explaining what modules he must complete to graduate from his comedy apprenticeship. Buzzing with nervous energy he gabbles his way through the introductory notes, gasping at his Ventolin for comic pause.
It's a very funny performance, perfectly pitched and skilfully timed the laughs coming from the character as much as the material, as he explains he has to cover observational material, surreal comedy and audience interaction to earn his spurs.
An hour is a bit of a stretch for a character designed to be an inept comic, even with help, and as he moves into his material, without ever relaxing, things are more hit and miss. But the idea is strong and its execution accomplished even if the novelty wears off.
What he tells is a mixture of appalling one-liners, some of which are funny in their naffness, others of which are just bad. He's on more solid ground with the routine based on the tracks in his MP3 player, although this, too, is overlong.
There's plenty of promise here, though, and Carter is undoubtedly a solid 20-minute club act with natural funny bones, which is quite some achievement after the two short years Andrews has been performing him.
What drags the show down, though, are the efforts of support act Michael Maney, who performs two characters of such energy-sapping awfulness that the audience simply sit in stunned, uncomfortable silence.
It's a mystery, then, why one of them a creepy Ned called Sainsbury McGivern with his shell suit trousers tucked into his socks is employed as the compere. In five minutes this slimy creation sucked every ounce of expectation out of the room to create an uneasy atmosphere rendering every audience member was painfully self-conscious.
When he returns at halftime in the guise of seedy serial killer Derek Devine exactly the same appalling awkward feeling descends, with only the faintest titters of discomfort in response to his dismally unpleasant material.
Still, it made us appreciate the energy of Tony Carter, all the more.Reviewed by: Steve Bennett