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Simon Evans: In The Money

Note: This review is from 2016

Review by Steve Bennett

In recent years, Simon Evans has been carving an unlikely niche for himself as an economics expert, fronting a series of comedy lectures for Radio 4 about market forces and how they impact on the world and our lives. It’s not his natural field, but if you have an erudite voice, people will assume you know what you’re talking about.

In The Money seems designed to capitalise (the perfect word, I suppose) on this new career. But despite its title, and being sardonically introduced as a talk on personal wealth management, it’s pretty much a straightforward stand-up show, the economic elements engineered as segues. That’s probably a good thing; seeking financial advice from a comedian seems as wise as taking relationship counselling from Oscar Pistorius.

The most relevant strand is how Evans, inspired by the property porn of daytime TV, got on the homeownership ladder, part of a routine that takes us briskly through his life, from starting a relationship with his lodger (now his wife) to great routines about his impatience with and borderline distain for his children. You are never too young to escape his caustic, imperious derision.

There’s also a routine about the British fetishising property ownership while the French prefer to rent, beautifully playing up the stereotypes and assuming a patriotic superiority, which only serves to expose the drawbacks of our system with a heavy irony.

For however condescending and supercilious Evans is in his withering dismals of any topic (and it’s usually ‘very’), the secondary joke is that his alternative is just as ridiculous. He’s Al Murray’s Pub Landlord from a different socio-economic category.

So we should maybe treat with caution his apparently sincere concluding investment advice, to buy tobacco and alcohol stock, since they have historically outperformed the rest of the market by a huge factor. He acknowledges the possible ethical problems, but bats them away in a routine finding new jokes in the old topics of how smokers have become social pariahs and how government drinking guidelines are so far from any sort of achievable reality for so many.

Another case in point is his routine about multimillionaire John Lennon asking us to imagine no possessions, which, Evans’s sarcastic contempt makes funnier, as usual, while he builds towards new interpretations of the familiar hypocrisy.

In any case, with a Fringe full of young left-wing idealists, an experience-scarred pragmatist and free market capitalist is always going to be a distinctive voice. With Evans, it’s an eloquent, educated one, too.

Review date: 8 Aug 2016
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Assembly George Square

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