A rare night out, courtesy of Mrs C, to go take in some new comedy at the Memorial Hall in town. So rare are these occasions that I don’t think I’ve been inside the Memorial Hall since seeing John Hegley there in nineteen ninety something or other. That night, I was inducted into the secret society of spectacle wearers (you too can join – it’s simple: take the index finger of your left hand, raise it, and firmly tap the lenses of your glasses. Anyone here wearing contacts? Yes? Now you try that too….).
Last night we saw The Boy With Tape On His Face. The easiest way to describe this is as follows: silent comedy. Well, there ain’t a lot else you can do with duct tape stuck over your mouth. The Boy himself looks like a wild-eyed cross between HMV’s own Ross Partridge, John Lydon, and any number of silent-era comedians, with a modern-day grungey twist. And a length of duct tape, of course. After Barry Dodds’s more traditional warm-up routine, The Boy came out during the interval and sat on the stage, tearing up pieces of tape, stuffing his pockets and bag, and staring manically at various members of the audience. Especially those who seemed tardy in returning to their seats. He was already getting laughs. A good sign of things to come.
An interview in the Grauniad has called this old-school vaudeville but these days it is refreshing to see someone who doesn’t rely on topical “tell-you-whats” or bombarding the audience with gags until something sticks. The convoluted set-ups of interactive routines, looks of frustration and dismay made ever more comical by his inability to say anything, and sometimes the sheer uncoordinated embarrassment of the volunteers from the audience all combined to create a show that left Mrs C with a headache from laughing too hard – while I hadn’t had such a fun night out in years.
If you want a taster of The Boy’s genius, the BBC has a routine from Edinburgh that was featured in last night’s show (not sure how long it will remain available online, unfortunately). Of course, this being Sheffield, it took twice as long to get the three blokes anywhere near being schnchronised. In fact it took one poor chap a good five minutes to understand what he was meant to be doing. Even his girlfriend was wailing with laughter.
As Mrs C has pointed out, silent comedy is universal. You could take this show anywhere in the world and make it work. You don’t have to intellectually “get” the jokes.
As a side note, the half-time conversation in the row behind me was almost as funny as the comedy itself. Two ever-so-slightly affluent ex-students, getting to know each other.
A: Oh, my degree is in drama, but now I’m in catastrophe risk management.
B: Really? I nearly did that myself! My brother’s fiancee is in the same field! How strange!
A: Oh I know – I only went into it as a temp job, but I liked it so much I asked if I could stay on. The CEO really liked my coffee, so he said yes! We’re ecologically friendly too – we have our own little section of woodland. Well, really, it’s more of a field of saplings right now, but I suppose one day they’ll be quite useful, won’t they?
You can’t make this shit up. Honestly.