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Laurence Clark: 12% Evil
Laurence has calculated that he’s only 12% evil after considering the many famous disabled villains such as Richard III, Long John Silver, Captain Hook, Dr Strangelove, various Bond baddies and Heather Mills-McCartney!
Do wheelchair users really get up and walk like Andy Pipkin when no-one is looking? Are parking badges and benefit books the only lifestyle perk? Is it brave and courageous to play death-defying sports in a wheelchair… or just plain stupid? With a series of stand-up sketches and filmed social experiments, Laurence aims to separate the fact from the fiction.
Laurence Clark is Fringe stalwart these days, but doesn’t quite seem to get the profile he deserves. Perhaps it’s because ‘comics with disabilities’ has become a sub-genre of the Fringe, and every year a different condition is in vogue, grabbing all the media glory. Clark’s cerebal palsy, that’s so 2005…
But he’s an astute social commentator, always with a point to make and an entertaining way of saying it. The main stunt in 12% Evil wouldn’t be out of place on a Mark Thomas show: audacious, stupidly funny but also making a serious point.
Armed with a bucket and a home-made sign, Clark went begging for various outlandish causes. And no matter how inappropriate they were, or how strongly he emplored passers-by not to contribute, he always seemed to rake it in – proving how conditioned we have become to the lie that disabled people need pity and charity from the rest of us.
It’s by far the strongest point about media perceptions that Clark makes in a show covering how disabled people are usually seen as evil (think of pirates, or all those Bond villains), fake (tabloid ‘compo cheats’ like Andy Pipkin), or brave in overcoming their conditions.
Some of these he rather labours, extending what could be summarised into a short, sharp gag into a mini-treatise, even if it is engagingly told. It means the show has quite a sluggish first third, but when he hits the nail on the head, it’s impressive, proving him a natural wit with an incisive mind.
To sound like an inept sociology essay for a moment, his comedy humanises a chunk of society marginalised by the way they are portrayed. Of course disabled people can laugh at themselves without it the ‘triumph over adversity’ mawkishness demanded by simplistic media.
Nothing proves this more than his routine about weird personal ads placed in the back of Disability Now magazine by people who’s biggest disability is a lack of self-awareness when it comes to placing ads. This ever-changing segment becoming his trademark, rather like Jasper Carrott reading out his insurance claim forms, and the examples he presents are as hilarious as they are unfathomably strange.
Clark’s an adept comic able to crack gags not dependent on him being in a wheelchair, such as wanting to bring PowerPoint presentations into his domestic life, as well as his comedy. But when he’s got a political agenda, there’s a welcome added bite to his material – and there’s a good 40 minutes of that in his hour-long show.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
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