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Paul Foot: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

After last year’s brilliantly chaotic Still Life brilliantly subverted the artificial slickness of stand-up, Paul Foot has taken a retrograde step in returning to a more free-form surrealism, with long, sprawling nonsense stories filling up the hour.

And it’s a less impressive show for it: a stream of insane ramblings and nervous, spastic tics which has to be enjoyed for the ridiculous ride, rather than any solid payoffs. Like most surrealism, the laughs come only when Foot suddenly stops talking, and the preposterousness of what has just been said dawns upon him.

He’s got funny bones, for sure, and a very distinctive look – which this year includes a shiny silver jacket. Many in the room found him instinctively hilarious, it has to be conceded, and in their ears everything Foot said was an instant gem.

But  it’s almost a self-parody of this sort of meaningless comedy, with hubristic wasps, lesbian salmon, Sue Johnson on a trampoline and a baguette with self-esteem issues. Actually I made one of those up, it’s that easy… though admittedly there’s more to the delivery than that.

The performance is enjoyably bonkers, his awkward frame jolting in pent-up frustration, his distinctive but dull cadence crescendoing to an  intimidating rant or borderline breakdown as he becomes possessed by his oddball ideas. That the anger that consumes him comes from situations he’s clearly imagined out of nowhere is pretty funny, but not devastatingly so.

Increasingly unlikely coincidences are the only thing that holds these tales together, which is either part of the deconstructionalist charm or an infuriating cheat, depending on how you look at it. It’s obviously part of the joke, as his repeated use of the ‘meanwhile…’ to bridge unrelated segments.

The little details elevate it  – such as referring to his notes after one routine to let us know that was exactly what he had planned to say – or the mention that this show wasn’t exactly what his agent wanted of him. Very wise, that agent.

With similar attention to the little things,  gets an everyday phrase like ‘come down on you like a ton of bricks’ stuck in his mind, repeating it too frequently for comfort until it’s exposed for rather an odd turn of phrase we never paid heed to before.

But tellingly the biggest laughs came in the set piece in which he came up with appropriate anagrams for supermarket names. Though he inevitably put his own distinctive, spin on it, this was the segment that most resembled a traditional comedy ‘bit’.

Otherwise this show feels like Foot’s treading water, rather than building on the warped genius of his 2011 show.

Review date: 16 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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