Mark Allen's Pet Project

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

By primarily appealing to pet owners, Mark Allen secures himself an amiable afternoon crowd predisposed to like him. But this engaging if largely forgettable hour builds to a surprisingly passionate plea to reject anthropomorphism and truly treat animals as animals.

A comic who puts his faith in thorough, empirical research, Allen is currently sporting a beard he hates because he believes it makes him marginally funnier and he’s got the ether-plucked statistics to prove it.

Having recently become the proud owner of a cat named Ella, he was concerned to find himself chatting with her as if she were human, leading him to ask – and rigorously strive to establish – why exactly do we keep pets?

You might imagine he interviewed animal behaviourists or psychologists. But instead Allen embarked on his quest at a tangent by infiltrating the Furry community – people who appropriate animal characteristics into their own hybrid sense of personality, often dressing up for the part – and wound up distinctly fur-curious.

Although he acknowledges the oddness of this social subset, he’s generally quite tender towards them and the laughter usually come from his being a fish (or rather, pinstripe-suited Dalmatian) out of water. But there’s the occasional snigger at the minority who practice mating across the animal-fantasy creature divide.

While competing in the Fursuit Olympics, Allen found himself learning about tolerance anew, although as ever with caper comedians in the Dave Gorman, Tony Hawks-line, it’s chiefly the patience and understanding of his girlfriend that he comes to appreciate most.

Elsewhere, he reflects on the sly marketing of pet food and despairing at the largess of the public towards the shelter of donkeys ahead of pensioners. He has an excellent routine about pets’ own serving suggestions and there’s a well-told anecdote on the battle of wits and bites he endured with the dog of his childhood German pen friend.

With a seamless slide presentation, Allen capably involves his audience and is an assured storyteller, shrewdly saving his compelling video footage of the Furries’ convention till last. Though it’s all wrapped up a little too pat, his ultimate comparison of the pet-owner relationship to a hostage situation is exceptionally well delivered.

Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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