Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Ho hum comedy from Radio 4 stars

Comedians Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis were at the Corn Exchange on Thursday 2nd May, with the third outing of their new routine We are not a Robot that’s touring the UK until late June.  It’s their first tour in a decade.

They are appearing, in a jumbled geography of about forty towns and cities – from Newbury to Lincoln, Cardiff, Winchester, Shrewsbury and Salford in an unfathomable sequence – so it perhaps makes sense for them to start with a comment on whichever is “today’s” town.  Where better than its motto, in our case ‘FLORUIT FLOREAT’ – May it flourish as it has flourished.  Except that there’s nothing especially funny about that.  Flourishing a bit of Latin was simply an intro to poking fun at some random silly mottos elsewhere, with Brighton, Sussex and Leicester coming in for some stick.

In the style of Radio 4’s The Now Show, retired a couple of weeks’ ago after 25 years, the show is observational, political and (mostly gently) mocking of the silliness of the human condition.  It was underway less than five minutes before there was an amusing poke at Michael Gove.

Rambling through so much of the last ten years, Punt and Dennis touched on how our language has changed – and happily contrasted the UK’s annual “word of the year” (usually troublesome, with “stagflation”, “woke” and such like) with Australia’s (the cheery “muffin-top” and the handy “WTF”).  And then how the various generations react to sound.  Baby-boomers might cringe at the sound of air-raid sirens but Gen Z might flip at the sound of a landline telephone.  They poked fun at the age-old boasting of parents about their children’s early gifts – reading well above their age-group and the like – but ignoring other, equally true, truths, such as a 20-something with a 47 year old’s hairline.

But the show was weak in areas that others would have made much of.  Liz Truss is, for many, the political comedian’s gift that just keeps giving.  She’s so very recently toured America making controversial speeches.  Why, then, show an admittedly manic photo of her and refer back to nothing more than the parent joke (a weedy reference to her age and, presumably in re-tread of Biden’s joke about Trump, “being just like a 6 year old”)?

The repeating chorus of Hugh Dennis’s colonoscopy was mildly amusing but, otherwise, the loo, poo, wee and fart jokes were boringly lavatorial.  What is this obsession with our bodily excretions?!

The ”decade review” includes some recycling of some old material.  For example, a joke on the back of the observation that our water supply, especially reservoirs, hasn’t kept up with population growth (the last reservoir being constructed more than 30 years’ ago), about stringing together all the mini-reservoirs (otherwise known a potholes).  Hey ho.

It seemed – and why shouldn’t it? – to be a decidedly “Radio 4” audience.  One of the biggest laughs came when the “pips” (a feature of broadcasting for, now, 100 years) were compared to the sound of a life-support machine, with the final elongated “pip” being Justin Webb (I’m not going to help you!) flat-lining.

Quite often chucklingly funny but it was too rambling and shapeless to make belly laughs.  A fan of The Now Show for all of its 25 years, I guess I was disappointed.

For fans of Punt and Dennis, they really are in venues all over the country, ending in Lincoln (don’t knock it!, I was brought up there) on 26th June.

As ever, The Corn Exchange itself offered a great venue, comfortable seats, and a glass of wine we could take into the theatre!  They do need to sort out mega-queueing for the bar at the interval (maybe, like other venues do, with pre-ordered drinks; if they offer that already, it’s not obvious).