Abnormally Funny People

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

There’s always a danger a show that collects together comics only because they have a disability of some form will be seen as some sort of freak show, albeit one in which the exhibits are laughing at themselves.

Even worse, it could be a magnet for the politically correct Guardianistas to show just how much empathy they have with the ‘differently-abled’ by coming along out of charity, to show their support.

But Abnormally Funny People has avoided both those traps with one simple step – of ensuring that the comics are, for the most part, very good at their jobs. This is an accomplished compilation of stand-ups, pure and simple. The fact they have experiences different from their almost exclusively able-bodied audience just gives them extra material to draw on.

There is one token non-disabled act on the bill, the nervily energetic Steve Best, who acts as compere. The audience was left more bemused than amused at his style, flipping the meaning of sentences back and forth every word, but the groansome puns engendered a sense of fun into the night.

First up was deaf comic Steve Day, kicking off with some great material about sharing a flat with the other comedians on the bill – and quickly nailing any ideas the comics may tread carefully around any disability topics.

As he cracked wise about the other members of the show, they remained on stage – giving a spirit of mickey-taking banter that joyfully pervades the entire hour and a fluidity most compilation shows lack.

Day is a brilliant gag writer, not just confined to his condition – although mishearing things is clearly a rich source of material. One gag offers a glimpse into the politicised way some people treat their deafness, mocking it mercilessly.

The almost literally pint-sized Simon Minty was on next, with a few jokes about his stature that could have fallen from the pages of Ronnie Corbett’s joke book.

He’s a bit actorly in his delivery, making it feel like a performance rather than a conversation, and only really comes into his own towards the end of his short set with a nice anecdote about a little people convention.

Minty’s set was topped with a really clunking, laboured sketch with Best as a policeman. It was the only break from stand-up of the hour, and did nothing to earn its tiresome place in the show.

Next up was Liz Carr, a wheelchair user whose brand of comedy is edgy and almost uncomfortable. She talks of ‘spazzing up’ and delivers some filthy material that makes no secret of the fact disabled people are as sexually motivated as the rest of us.

Some comedy was, perhaps, sacrificed for point-making, but the laughs still came solidly from this honest, uncompromising set.

Blind stand-up Chris McCausland is much more cheerful in his approach. The first joke is that it’s a blind man doing observational comedy – the second is that he’s better at it than quite a few sighted comics I could name.

He’s an anecdotal performer, delivering personal tales with friendly good humour, The tale of him listening to a football match in his local pub is especially good fun.

Again, he’s not confined to being a comic who talks exclusively about his blindness, with a good portion of his spirited set revolving around depressed giraffes.

The tiny Canadian powerhouse that is TanyaLee Davis closed the show – winning plenty of friends with her animated, vibrant, flirty delivery. Much of it is about the folly of beauty treatments from Botox to bikini wax, with a subtle underlying message about body image.

She’s a party animal with some occassionally filthy material, but she gets away with it through her perky cheekiness.

It was a fitting end to an upbeat show, and one which will be the subject of a future Sky One documentary that will bring more deserved acclaim to its participants. But abnormally funny? Whoever heard of a comic being all that normal anyway?

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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