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Benny Boot : Set-Up, Punchline, Pause for Laughter

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Donnchadh O Conaill

A presumptuous title, this. A set-up which, should anything go wrong, would let wiseacre critics deliver their own punchline. But Benny Boot knows what he’s about. This is an hour which plays to his undoubted strengths, while making enough adjustments to mask possible weaknesses. Apart from a lack of ambition, which is hardly a crime in a full-length debut, it’s hard to find any serious faults.

Boot’s speciality is observational comedy condensed into the titular format. Most of the show consists of a selection of his dry one-or-two-liners, most of which are very good and some of which are excellent. There is a lovely joke about paedophiles, and a more extended bit on the Ghostbusters theme, which starts with an obvious observation but takes it in a beautifully judged direction. What marks this material out is not the choice of subject matter, but the polish of the writing and the consistently effective twisting of the basic ideas.

The delivery is harder to pin down. The ‘pauses for laughter’ sometimes feel intrusive, as though Boot were sizing us up before taking his next step. His frequent giggles at his own material also suggest nervousness, and occasionally an endearing awareness of his own silliness. It seems at odds with such smooth and dry material, and it is the one aspect of the show which might irritate the unwary. But his expressive features help to sell lines which might otherwise come across as self-satisfied.

Good as the jokes are, they might not be enough to carry an audience for an hour, particularly since Boot is not the kind of performer who could comfortably inject energy if needed.

Perhaps with this in mind, he uses a different device to adapt them for the hour-long format: a character to introduce the show. Walter Montgomery, the ‘black mamba of comedy’, would never stoop to giggle at anyone’s jokes, least of all his own. A deluded coach talking through his stand-up secrets and worshipping at the altar of a leather-clad Eddie Murphy, he not only allows Boot to toy with the audience’s expectations, but also provides a handy check-list of clichés which can be knowingly referred to later.

This isn’t stand-up to change one’s life: there are no intensely personal revelations or overarching themes here. For the most part, Boot is in his comfort zone, poised against the microphone and flicking out his taut quips. But on these terms, it is an excellent debut, and an impressive calling card for a comedian to look out for.

Review date: 27 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Donnchadh O Conaill

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