Friday, May 1, 2015

Comedy: Paul Foot (★★★★½)

Perth Comedy Festival
Octagon Theatre
April 30, May 1, 2015

The sad truth about seeing Paul Foot every chance you get is that the wonderful disorder he creates in you wears off. Worse, you can become jealous of other people in his audience – undoubtedly seeing him for the first time – suffering from the same exquisite malady you once had. You can recognise them by their helpless laughter, something between a snicker and a whimper, the human equivalent of a dog kicking his hind leg as its tummy is scratched.
The good news is that, like new love turning into old marriage, other pleasures await.

The comedian’s website is called “The Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs” and that’s exactly right. “Guild”, because there’s something sweetly anachronistic about a comedian who starts his show with “Greetings!” and performs it without verbal obscenity; “Connoisseur” because the more often you see him, the more you savour the craft behind his most singular art.
Even his on-stage paroxysms, his violent bobbing and bizarre, leaping walks, are like exclamation marks, dashes and semicolons that physically punctuate his material.
And what material it is. Foot isn’t an observational comic; instead, like Spike Milligan, he occupies a parallel universe of the imagination. In his new show, Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major, it’s a place where Scotch finger biscuits disrupt a suburban BDSM sex club, where nosey bed and breakfast landladies are afflicted with Red Indian nightmares, wives hide haute cuisine creations in toilet cisterns and Hindu gods fail to save adulterous husbands from exposure.
Foot delights in playing with the structure of comedy. He can’t make his off-stage self-introduction because the microphone doesn’t work, so the first twenty minutes of the show aren’t in it (the material he does then has, he says, been discarded from the show). Once the show does begin he lists what he’s planning to do – thirteen items, including Aquarium Jokes and A Surprise from the Briefcase – and proceeds to forcibly yoke them together with complete disregard of any of the conventions of logic or narrative flow.
Instead of form and structure, he gives us a surreal ride of strange voices and magnificent inventiveness. It’s the most precarious tightrope walking I’ve ever seen a comedian other than Milligan attempt, from one of the funniest people on our planet. Or theirs.

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