The Talented Dr Ryegold

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

George Ryegold might be a humble doctor, but he’s got big ambitions. In this show he aims to solve Third World hunger, expose the avarice of fat-cat bosses and prove the existence of God, and that’s just a part of it.

In fact, Dr Ryegold (the creation of Toby Williams) barely has time for any of the brutal, gallows medical humour which made his name. There are a few intensely graphic passages about the human body’s functions, and a hint of his own unethical medical (mal)practices – but he is nowadays operating more in the realm of a callous right-wing politician than an immoral physician.

In his line of fire are the usual social detritus of spongers and malingerers: the disabled, diseased famine victims, charity workers – you know the sort of people. And he comes up with some radical ideas to solve these ‘problems’.

‘You can’t say these things out loud,’ he protests, as if stifled by some political correctness – though, of course, he’s quite unencumbered by such considerations. It’s the extremities of his so-called ‘unwelcome truths’ that get the laughs, coming as they do from an apparently thoughtful, mild-mannered professional in brogues and tweed, rather than a ranting rabble-rouser.

The outlandish theories are backed by some clinically precise writing. He’s not the first comedian to suggest, for example, that abortion should be available postnatally; but the detailed commitment to the idea rams home the point. Vividly detached descriptions of everything from pornographic films to his hideous solution to world hunger have a blunt, often horrific, wit – but he also overstays his welcome on some of the extended theses.

The show, still in its infancy, is however less consistent and less intense, than the ‘good’ doctor’s strongest work, which won him the ‘best show’ accolade at last year’s Leicester festival. A notable misfire is his opening routine about ethical thought experiments, which needs too much explaining and never quite achieves traction. Yet that is balanced by his incontrovertible proof for the existence of God, just to infuriate Richard Dawkins, which is an inventive twist on observational comedy.

Review date: 7 Feb 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Criterion Pub

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