Earl Stevens: Puh Leez!

Note: This review is from 2001

Review by Steve Bennett

Earl Stevens is an acutely-observed parody of every chummy American stand-up who rose from the Eighties club circuit.

Playing on this wonderfully-drawn character's desperation, insecurity and social failings, Puh Leez is a Spinal Tap for the comedy industry.

His is the tale of how a keen open spot became a polished club comic, member of a TV comedy group, Letterman guest and creator of a cheesy sitcom (My Rabbi Is A Robot - forever languishing in development) before both the live circuit and his TV deal collapsed, leaving nothing more than a cocaine habit to show for it all.

This is a cautionary tale all right, and one every comic and comedy anorak will identify with. Whether a wider audience will appreciate the references, though, is debatable, and although the 'rise and fall' plot is universally familiar, it's also pretty slight.

But it's the character work that makes this show so enjoyable. Paul Putner makes his creation utterly believable - with some of the punters near me at least initially confused about whether this guy was for real.

He slips effortlessly and effectively between Earl's insincerely pally stand-up persona and insecure off-stage character as key moments in his supposed life are re-enacted. It's all brilliantly and convincingly done.

And the demonstration of how Stevens experimented with surreal off-the-wall comedy in the Nineties is one of the most bizarrely hilarious moments on the fringe, and one I won't spoil by even hinting at what it is.

This has to be a must for anyone who calls themselves a comedy fan, if only to smile smugly at the in-jokes sailing over the heads of a more general audience.

Review date: 1 Jan 2001
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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