John Oliver & Andy Zaltzman issue a list of de

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

As solo performers, both Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver have their faults.

But as a double act they bring out the best of Zaltzman’s towering intellect and Oliver’s  sneery cynicism, feeding off each other’s presence. It’s not so much chemistry – these pair are far too aloof for that – but a familiarity and ease that makes their cross-talk flowing and natural.

It may well be their aim, but this show already feels like a slick, topical BBC Two show – albeit an over-long one.

Oliver and Zaltzman are at the vanguard of a new wave of satire taking vast global issues – fair trade, the apathy paralysing democracy, immigration –  and trying to simplify them to expose their flaws, which suddenly seem so blindingly obvious when put in such clear terms. In this, they owe a debt to Johns Bird and Fortune, while making the approach their own.

They are at their best when their spot-on observations are pithy; and these lean one-liners start from the moment you walk in the door, so do come early.

Sometimes, in their quest to dumb down the presentation, if not the content, the balance goes too far the other way, with some of the silly gimmicks and stunts losing sight of the message and missing the economy of their best jokes. The adventure game about Britain joining the EU is the messiest offender.

But it’s a show rich with ideas, and if you don’t like one, there will be another one along any moment.

Their best trick is to explain these big, important issues with ridiculous but analogies, and deliberately giving policies such a stupid treatment reveals so much more about  them than petty, point-scoring politicians will  ever do.

In their careers, Oliver and Zaltzman are already moving up a  league into regular radio appearances – and they seem to have raised their game accordingly.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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