The Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.
27th Oct 2013
It was the day the news broke about the “Godfather of Punk” moving on and the night the hurricane hit the South West… but the Godfather of Alternative Comedy is alive and well and kicking up a storm. Ged Babey gets showered in spit.
I didn’t get front row seats because I’m a critic, I paid like everyone else and it was just sheer luck. Or bad luck. “We’re within spitting distance” my wife said to me before Alexei bounded onstage doing some surprisingly graceful ballet-moves and curtseys. Little did I know that during the more shouty sections little specks of spittle would arc through the air and catch the light, before landing on the patrons sat in the front row. It was unintentional and luckily Alexei doesn’t rant quite as much as he did a few decades back. He is ever so slightly more restrained now and has a kind of avuncular mania about him.
It’s been a long time: seventeen years since he last did stand up and it really is great to re-familiarise yourself with the Scouse surrealist commie & comedian who actually did “Invent Alternative Comedy” only to be ripped-off by C-u-next-Tuesdays like Ben Elton (hack-puutt!). ‘Lex read us his first proper review from 1982 – the audience did seem taken aback by being called cunts – it said.
A friend has told him to just do his old act but change the names. He gave it a try substituting Dizzy Rascal for Margaret Thatcher. Which worked. But maybe you had to be there.
If Alexei did use portions of his old act I didn’t really notice, simply because it’s been so long since he last graced a comedy stage. He’s an author of some repute now so plays the Hay On Wye Literary Festival, “Basically, it’s Glastonbury with fuckin’ Panama hats”, he told us.
His energy and gurning and huge presence is as great as his material. He commands the stage, keeps your attention and really is a master of the art of stand-up, with added surrealism. This was the best comedy show I’ve been to for at least the last ten years, if not twenty (not that I go to a lot). If I had to compare it to a gig, review-wise ( I don’t pretend to be a proper critic, I’m a glorified punk fanzine writer who just happens to have been doing it for 28 years now!) I would have to say that this was the comedy equivalent of the Pistols reforming for the Filthy Lucre tour, only more low-key; and being fookin’ amazing. Only Alexei Sayle is not doing it for the money. He’s doing it again, just cos he wants to, he misses it, and to make sure he still can.
Words like Legend and Genius are bandied around far too often, but in this case they are appropriate. Great to see him back onstage. Now let’s get him back on the Tele!
Alexei’s tour has now finished.
The Nuffield Theatre, Southampton.
20th Oct 2013
The week before the above Ged had checked out Germany’s Comedy Cultural Ambassador.
You’ve may have seen Henning Wehn on various TV panel shows (like 8 Out of Ten Cats, Would I Lie To You… ) but if you haven’t, the idea of a German comedian, albeit one that’s lived in London for ten years is a pretty hard sell. He has a unique charm and endearing quality about him though and I’m pleased to say his two hour stage show is a triumph and more consistently funny than most of his English counterparts.
The main concept is that he is German and that if he is funny, then that’s great, and if he is not, then all of our preconcieved ideas about the Germans being humourless sauerkrauts are correct. So it’s a “Vin Vin situation” for him. He hangs a German sausage from his microphone stand for starters and that’s his wurst joke overwith. He is corny at times, but incredibly astute at others.
Things that the German public see as terrible the English see as “a laugh innit”. National characteristics are mocked on both sides of the channel; the Scots, the Dutch, no one escapes Henning’s witty sideway and observations.
His conversational laid-back style is convincingly natural and his bumbling appearance, pasties, ill-fitting trousers and thick woolly cardigan, gives him a non-threatening air, meaning that only he could get away with a joke about holocaust denial, which would be awful in less subtle hands.
Reviewing comedy is more difficult than I imagined as it’s impossible to remember all of the two hours material … but a segment (which has got to be true) about a Midlands WWII re-enactment weekend, which Henning read from a newspaper report, started with the words – “A Jewish couple … were asked if they would mind dressing up as Concentration Camp inmates as part of the fun … it could only happen in Britain and be considered “a laugh”. As Henning said, the “would you mind” translated as “but if you don’t you’ll be spoiling everyone elses fun”.
Standard German army uniforms were used, but the cooler black SS ones weren’t as that wouldn’t’ve been PC.
The British and their apparent unrelenting obsession with the War is, it seems, unique to us compared to our Euro-neighbours and maybe, as Henning says, it is time to “ Get over it, it was 70 years ago for fucks sake”.
A great show from a unique funny man who is nowhere near the dumb caricature he seems on first sight.
Henning Wehn’s official website is here.
Remaining tour dates which are not sold-out…
- 1 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 4pm – TICKETS
- 1 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 7pm – TICKETS
- 8 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 4pm – TICKETS
- 8 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 7pm – TICKETS
- 15 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 4pm – TICKETS
- 15 – London – Leicester Square Theatre (Christmas Show) – 7pm – TICKETS
All words by Ged Babey. Bullets Artwork by Liar Billy T. More of Ged’s writing can be found at his author’s archive.