Andy Parsons DVD recording

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Is it any wonder Andy Parsons is doing so well? After all, his attitude perfectly matches that part of the British psyche which grumbles that everything’s rubbish, while secretly being proud of the under-achievement. After all, it takes the pressure of the rest of us to perform.

‘It’s a bit shit…’ is something of a catchphrase, repeated in his distinctive monotone rhythm about anything that doesn’t come up to scratch. Some of which are very easy comic pickings, so his mocking the anticipated opening ceremony of the London Olympics, Fathers4Justice or rail replacement bus services can feel like shooting fish in a barrel – and with a rocket-propelled grenade, too.

He’s certainly attuned to middle-class gripes, and acknowledges them as such. He may be well up on the news thanks to Mock The Week, but forget about war, climate change, globalisation – it’s snipes at traffic wardens, Trinny and Susannah and being left on hold that get the best reaction, even if it’s not always the best material.

He is sometimes more ambitious with his politics – such as believing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was a monumental judicial stitch-up – which is cunningly slipped in behind some more innocuous material. But when the big global problems do arise, Parsons tends to come up with solutions that involve lying on the couch, again striking a chord with the audience, garnering the sort of appreciative ripples of applause more normally heard at the party conferences this time of year.

Yet even if his approach to the world is not always unique, his writing can be exquisite, and tonight, recording his first stand-up DVD, classic routines old and new get an airing. He has a fantastic joke about Peter Vardy’s faith schools that teach creationism, and sharp gags about everything from the Jordan-branded ironing cover to cervical cancer jabs. Reading the newspapers certainly pays off – and sometimes he doesn’t even have to try too hard to add jokes; the MPs’ expenses scandal was funny enough in itself, especially when he relates the fact in his distinctively sneery tone.

That delivery counts for a lot, with his peculiar pronunciation of a word like ‘pooh’ adding extra laughs from the gravitas his deadpans gives it. Likewise silly routines, such as his drunken prank call to Mr A Squirrel, pack an extra punch because he delivers it so straight-faced.

But the relentless pitch can be grating in a night as long as this. We’re in the theatre for two and three-quarter hours, including interval, and there’s very few people you’d want to listen to for so long. Energy levels definitely flag by the time we get to the climax – a paean to Britain delivered to the rousing, if manipulative, strains of Land Of Hope And Glory.

Much of the night has been padded out with audience badinage, which compared to the topical-inspired gag-writing, isn’t necessarily Parsons’ strongest suit. It’s amiable enough, and he can use it to segue into prepared material seamlessly – but he’s no Al Murray. As with a lot of such banter that you’ll hear in the clubs, there are a lot of dead ends and reluctance to reveal too much information to the man with the mic. But – with the aid of a camera pointing back at the crowd – Parsons does eventually find some unlikely costars in the stalls.

The good bits will probably edit down nicely for the DVD, but overextends the live performance by quite some margin, and probably affected the response to later jokes as fatigue set in.

Review date: 29 Sep 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Lyric Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue

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