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Paul F Taylor: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

‘Does anybody know who Bill Cosby is?’ Paul F Taylor asks his audience – drawing an almost universal blank.

If they haven’t heard of the star of the biggest sitcom of the Eighties (don’t they teach this stuff in schools?) it’s almost inconceivable they will have come across It's Garry Shandling's Show. And that’s probably good news for Taylor, as it means no one will notice what a poor imitation of that subversive, self-aware sitcom he has pulled off here.

Example? The lo-fi title song for Shandling’s programme bounced along with the lyrics: ‘This is the Theme to Garry's Show…’ while Taylor has an incidental track that sings about it being ‘scene change music’.

In both cases, the star is aware that they are starring in their own sitcom, and  interact with the audience accordingly. Taylor has no budget for supporting cast, so drags unwilling volunteers from their seat to read out their lines. There’s already too many Fringe shows that eke laughs from the clumsy participation of amateurs, and Taylor adds nothing to it. His own performance isn’t that far from hammy, either.

Of course, it’s cheap and cheerful, with cardboard props and hand-written title cards – though the odd design of the Tron means some of these will be obscured by pillars if you sit in the wrong place. Comedians, know your venue spaces!

The set-up is Seinfeld-like – right down to borrowing the twangy stings from the original – in that the action flits between stand-up routines and a plot that inspires them. It’s not entirely clear whether the sets are supposed to be parodies of tenuous routines about mundane observations flammed up by desperate comedians, or whether that’s his actual material.

Probably not, because there are some much better gags in here, quirky and imaginative quickies, such as the jokes about the handlebar moustache (although a recurring one about not being able to read music is a minor variant on a Tim Vine one-liner). Yet there are so few of them, this smacks of another comic trying to expand 15 minutes of decent material to fill four times its size – although this format is admittedly a notably different way of doing it that simply padding with weak stand-up.

Yet since TV has long used up and spat-out the meta-format, it’s not an idea that can go anywhere. Nor is the sitcom element particularly elegantly plotted, or characters well-drawn, or parody sharply enough written, that if he wanted to show he could do more than stand-up, it hasn’t come off. He does have talents as a writer of oblique gags, but this show does not display them at their best.

Review date: 20 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Just The Tonic at The Tron

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