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Mike Wozniak: Clown Shoes - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Last year’s surprise best newcomer nominee, Mike Wozniak is delightfully warm performer, with an intricately constructed show, eloquently told with an appealing dash of the absurd.

Yet while this is an effortlessly enjoyable hour, with a smattering of exquisite lines, Clown Shoes lacks that killer punch that would elevate it to the must-see lists.

Wozniak picks up from where he left off last year, with tales of his father Josef, an amateur Polish scientist who is forever taking sabbaticals to pursue whatever piques his curiosity. The backdrop here is his history of science and science trivia roadshow, extracts of which Wozniak Jr lovingly recreates for us.

A semi-credible mythology is constructed around his father’s romanticised life, with stand-up routines carefully moulded to fit the premise, creating more a storytelling monologue than gag-driven hour. Best of the bunch is his take on movie clichés, especially car chases, which are mocked with an obtuse and understated wit.

He also finds a book by self-proclaimed ‘finger guru’ John T Manning, who makes all sort of seemingly preposterous claims about what can be deduced from the ratio of the length of the ring finger to the index finger. Were it not published, you would swear this was a surreal fiction – but even as the theories are softly teased you can see half the audience slyly measuring up. Somewhat ironically, for a section involving lengths, this does go on a bit too long.

A recurring idea is the presentations from great scientists of the past, as recreated by Wozniak’s relatives in that short-lived science roadshow: Galileo, Schrödinger, Archimedes. These are ridiculous caricatures, but again Wozniak nicely underplays it, remaining dignified despite the indignities of the situation. Giving us three examples – as per the comedy rule – provides another returning motif for a show rich in callbacks and cross-references.

It’s an admirable show, and one you could see working well in the context of a Radio 4 comedy, though the routines are probably too underpowered to slay them in the clubs.

Review date: 7 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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