Pam Ann: Flying High
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Total London sell-out! Biting blends of waspish satire and matchless audience banter. Poking fun at Economy and dishing dirt on other airlines, she terrorises all with safety demos. Get your Gucci flip-flops on, pick up your Prada handbag and jump on board.
With her compendium of bitchy stand-up routines, sketches and karaoke, Pam Ann’s Flying High is more of a celebration than a comedy show. A celebration of herself, and all the stylish, expensive things that she is obviously surrounded by, that is.
Of course, this is the point but, under any degree of scrutiny, this spoof air hostess peels away to reveal what is essentially a shallow, soulless character with extremely limited room for growth.
Bearing this in mind, she should be applauded for actually managing to achieve the difficult task of writing an entire show (and those in the past) of airline-based comedy. Her scope of topics ranges from sniping observations about the manner and fashion sense of other airline’s cabin crews, her thought process during in-flight events (such as turbulence) and the exaggerated differences between first and standard class.
It is slightly challenging to imagine how this could hold any interest, but the character is performed with an over-the-top high-minded attitude that does create a degree of comedy. The audience are laughing at her perspective, although if they are laughing at her comments or their ridiculousness is often unclear.
This lack of clarity becomes especially poignant at one particularly sour moment where she dons glasses with special tiny eye slits, talks in a squeaky voice and claims to represent Air Singapore.
Despite this ability to discover several plausible topics within such a limited field, Pam Ann’s comedy is of the laziest order. She occasionally simply deploys an unexpected swear word as a joke’s pay-off and more often uses the same comedic basis in set-ups, offering nothing new, just extending a joke well beyond its welcome.
For example, she makes the same observation about cabin crews on British Airways several times throughout the show, each time as the pay-off to a different joke. Promising inventiveness rears its head every so often, but such moments are so diluted that they are almost redundant.
The relative strength of Pam Ann’s exaggerated performance and a propensity to push audience ‘participation’ beyond normal expectations do make some limited moves towards saving the show, but it is essentially a victim of its own material.
Bearing all of this in mind, it is still worth noting that – by the time the show’s early finale came around (the preview I saw began fifteen minutes behind schedule yet still finished five minutes before) – the two people behind me were literally on their feet dancing.
Yet the show’s appeal rarely stretches beyond that of the discos Pam Ann seems to adore: an atmosphere that her character instigates through sheer presence, rather than any particular comic skill.