Tony Law: Absurdity For The Common People | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Tony Law: Absurdity For The Common People

Note: This review is from 2017

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

Tony Law makes a virtue of the haphazard premise of his show: the fact it would be impenetrably difficult to explain to outsiders is worn as a badge of pride, and serves to bind the audience, made to feel in on the joke with him.

Absurdity For The Common People is about his alleged former life as a pioneer of competitive trampolining in the 1970s –  the first person to do moves rather than just bounce – which he over-ambitiously attempts to tie in with his  thoughts on The Silk Road, a surreal fantasy about  studying bonobos in the Congo, and the time he drove a rubbish truck down The Mall.

It sounds like the product of a fevered mind, and he has to point out that he’s been clean of drink and drugs for two years, lest you think that was his inspiration. ‘This is what good mental health looks like!’ he jokes, full of tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.

He treats his show as a jolly game, to see to what strange extremes he can take an audience through sheer dedication and playful coercion, the ever-present glint in his eye encouraging us to embrace his alternate reality, much more fun than boring old real life. No wonder he pooh-poohs those stand-up shows that are more like TED talks with their earnest point-making.

Instead, Absurdity For The Common People was taken from the ‘worst three minutes’ of his 2016 offering, now stretched out to the full hour. That admission is part of the ceaseless commentary on his own work. ‘If you can’t do jokes, do voices,’ he says. In a silly voice. Indeed, he adopts a convincing  Yorkshire brogue for some voice-in-the-head asides, a toned-down version of Terry Alderton’s internal monologue. (And this is probably the only comparison in which the ebullient Law could possibly be the toned-down version of anything).

Although the show’s mostly scripted, Law likes to undermine the conceit of prepared stand-up, so makes a point of highlighting any of the scaffolding that holds the set up, from routines reverse-engineered from pleasing phrases that once occurred to him, to highlighting when he’s doing the groundwork for a later callback.

As well as throwing all sorts of oddball ideas at the wall, he makes his show eclectic in approach, too, featuring bizarre clothing, some semi-earnest shadow puppetry and other performance-enhancers, which prove more difficult to master than he expected.

Even with Law’s experience, and an established fan base prepared to embrace the wilfully baffling, sustaining the disconnected, peripatetic strands is something of a challenge, and the bursts of random creativity do have diminishing returns. But those signposted callbacks do have a purpose, and the show reaches something approaching closure, even if you shouldn’t probe too much. 

For with Law’s shows, like his trampolining, the leap is the important bit, not the landing.

Review date: 26 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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