Funny... and profoundly annoying | Phil Mann from BattleActs chooses his Perfect Playlist

Funny... and profoundly annoying

Phil Mann from BattleActs chooses his Perfect Playlist

Paul Foot: Shire Horses

Every single thing he says is so completely detached from reality as to not even be within the realms of plausibility. And it's two fingers up at people who claim you have to write about what you know, or write relatable material.

I love how it seems almost painful for Paul to be saying some of the words due to how overblown and verbose his sentence structure is. It's an almost-narrative, it's nearly got characters in it, and it's partly, but not quite factual. And it is unremittingly bonkers. 

Paul Foot weaves long, long screeds of text into his work, and matches it with an equally uncomfortable physical performance that seems designed to be as alienating as possible. It's pernickety, and pretty much all of his work is profoundly annoying, too - and perhaps that's why it's so compelling. 

Bill Bailey - Chaucer Pubbe Gagge

This is a master stroke from a comedian that I've followed since I knew what jokes even were, I'd drag my parents to tiny venues that made them feel uncomfortable so that I could adolescently worship Bill from my seat. This was also my introduction to what Chaucer was, and I think it's a mark of quality that I totally got the joke as a child who'd never heard of the poet. The forced rhymes, the anachronisms and the balls it must take to write a Chaucer gag, that has, every time I've seen it performed, happened with pretty much no explanation of who or what Chaucer is. If you're at the show and you don't get the reference: you're stuffed, mate. 

Bill Bailey's work spans an incredible breadth. Little homely stories sit next to dissections of classical music and renaissance art, and are sandwiched between surreal, gothic narrative ballads. I think Bill likes to project an air of whimsy in order to hide just how earth-shakingly creative he is. 

Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure: Tattoo

The first time I saw this, I had to take it and show it to everyone I knew. I grew up in the smallish city of Peterborough, which is fairly devoid of laughs on or off a stage and I think at the time it sparked in me a desire to travel and a recognition of kindred spirit - someone who is an idiot loser that yells too much until his voice goes numb and does things without thinking through the consequences.

I love how angry Dave Gorman is at his own body here. The theatrical nature of his performance is actually attempting to hide the shame and embarrassment you can see in his eyes. 

I heard Dave Gorman once describe himself as a secret performance artist who pretends to be a comedian, and all of his works have a heart-warming quality, while making you hold your head in your hands and silently ask him” ‘Why? ...Why?' 

How To Irritate People: Airline Pilots

This is a pre-Flying Circus sketch that I love mostly for the words ‘The emergency sprill must be released.’ At the point this was made and broadcast, Python wasn't a massive thing and nobody knew how big they would be. You'd see this sketch in a sketch show nowadays, with the same punchline and it wouldn't be out of place. 

Homestar Runner: Crazy Cartoon

‘So that's a pretty crazy cartoon, huh Josh? ‘I used to download these things on a 56k modem (for the kids reading this, it took an hour to download an mp3) and watch them in the dead of night when my parents were in bed.

Homestar Runner is a children's book that never got written, but the authors decided to turn it into their own private project online. For something that came out of a half-arsed job, it's pretty full-arsed - with songs, internal spin-offs series, puppet versions of the shows and collaborations with They Might Be Giants.

In the Strong Bad emails, viewers at home would write to Strong Bad and he'd answer their emails once a week. There's about 400 3-minute cartoons still on the site. Like all my favourite comedy, it would poke fun at itself and the way it's made. 

Andy Kaufman:I Trusted You

Kaufman really knew where it was at. Three words for three minutes and it makes me howl. 

Time Trumpet: Beckham's Vagina

This was such a perfectly pitched bit of telly. A fake retrospective of the early 2000s, set in the future. A show where the casting is actually one of the funniest punchlines. Seeing aged versions of Ant and Dec or (as here) David Beckham, is really laugh-out-loud funny. I think it's Iannucci gold. 

The Fast Show: Johnny Nice Painter

Everyone knows and loves this, but I think it's a joke that transcends ‘catchphrase comedy’. It's such a stupid joke, and yet it really speaks to me about how much I care about stupid things like jokes (or in Johnny's case - watercolours), and getting a joke wrong can send us into a spiral of mania.

I remember attempting to write my last Edinburgh show and looking back through my notebook to find pages of complaints about how much of a useless person I was with no jokes. It was, as Johnny's wife points out, time to go home, now. 

• Phil Mann is appearing in improv comedy show Battle Acts, which is on at the Vault Festival, Leake Street, Waterloo, London from tomorrow until March 1 at 9.30pm.

Published: 17 Feb 2015

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