Andy Zaltzman Detonates 70 Minutes Of Unbridled Afternoon

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

It's been a while since Andy Zaltzman performed alone, and this return to solo work wasn't exactly planned, as his usual collaborator John Oliver was whisked to New York to work on the Daily Show only days before the start of the Fringe. Add to that the fact that his laptop containing the show they were going to perform together was stolen, and you've got a script written in a hurry.

Not that you could necessarily tell, had Zaltzman not 'fessed up. The show is a little ragged round the edges, the ending as suggested by Boothby Graffoe is strange and there are couple of classic Zaltzman Gold routines recycled into the set, but nothing that really indicates a rushed job.

We know what to expect of him now, 70 minutes of topsy-turvy logic, torturously extended analogies and a few awkward puns all employed to serve his discourse on all things political: war, crime, immigration and global corporate greed being his big four touchstones.

He's inordinately proud of some of his convoluted gags ­ 'I challenge anyone to come up with a better Cold War/snooker analogy,' he mock-boasts at one point ­ but the danger is the routines require so much set-up that they risk coming over as a lecture. But the gags at the end of each segment are usually worth it, and always out-on-a-limb unique thanks to the brilliant imagry he evokes.

But he recognises his weaknesses, too. 'That's not so much a joke as a neatly-phrased sentence,' is his modest reaction when he gets a better-than-expected laugh, but beautiful construction is what we've come to expect of Zaltzman, more than rat-a-tat gags.

In terms of delivery, he's better when he relaxes a little. The tightly written constructs and inflexible deadpan manner can create an imposing monolith between Zaltzman and his audience. But when he shows a little more vulnerability, emitting a silly schoolboy laugh at an unexpected ad-lib or getting into a spontaneous dialogue with the crowd about how they reacted to some painful wordplay, then he becomes more human, and the material is transmitted more efficiently as a result.

The show becomes sluggish in the second half, as the contrivance of filling in a customer service form about the war on terror becomes a millstone rather than a help, but it's as rich with ideas as anything else.

It's important work Zaltzman is doing, at least compared to most other comics, and deserves to be heard ­ if only he was a bit more fluid in its telling.

Steve Bennett


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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