Paul Foot: Laughterhouse, Liverpool
In the perfect surroundings of the Laughterhouse, Alan Parry finds Paul Foot reminiscent of Robin Williams in his pomp.
I’m not sure that there is a better venue in the country to watch stand-up comedy in than Liverpool’s Laughterhouse. If there is, I don’t know of it. There are even seats on the stage, either side of the small area in which the artist has at their disposal.
It’s a grungy, intimate, cave of a club with a very low ceiling, which I have often heard helps to create the optimum atmosphere. And the atmosphere for Paul Foot was so special that he said it could have been a Tuesday, or even a Monday night!
Foot followed his regular support act Malcolm Head, who dutifully worked the audience up with some fantastically witty short, non-rhyming poetry, a fun game of “Age Bingo”, and some friendly football chant ideas. If you don’t know him, as soon as you have finished here, go to your search engine of choice and check him out. It’s worth your time, I promise. Think less of Dr John Cooper Clarke and more of Tim Key.
With the audience ready and waiting, Foot teased his entrance with an absurdly long introduction, from some place unknown before bursting into the room and onto the stage, almost falling on my very own unsuspecting lap.
The raw energy that Foot displays on stage is almost frightening, his clambering across of a trio of empty chairs and disturbed shaking as he delivers his material is mesmerising stuff. Without this physical performance, his material could be called ordinary; but when coupled together, they make a match for any comedian currently working the circuit, at home or internationally.
Foot has a reputation for being a surrealist, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of what he does. Certainly, he finds the funny where other’s may not, a row on holiday between a married couple is familiar to most of us, but it is his spin on it that moves us away from Michael McIntyre‘s prime-time ‘man drawer’ and closer to Robin Williams in his pomp.
This show is, in part at least, a piece of social commentary. He makes light of Theresa May; of the radicalisation of some of Britain’s youth by extremists and their relationship with their parents, ‘”Dinners ready! Your favourite, toad-in-the-hole!”, “Gotta go, my dinner’s ready. Death to the west!”’; and of the senseless intolerance of and prejudice towards minorities.
He holds up a mirror, maybe a convex mirror, but a mirror all the same to our everyday lives. And, it is difficult not to get swept up by his sheer enthusiasm and righteousness. But, for all of that, this is not an overtly political show. It’s just that some of the things going on in the world today are utterly ludicrous, and ripe for comedy.
Indeed, I have not laughed so hard in a long time, as I did as he routinely punched a stuffed monkey in the face, before he offered the same stuffed animal to an audience member for a further beat down, “Stop! I’m an orphan! I’m dyslexic. I’m dyslexic!” screamed Foot, acting as Johnny the Monkey, in his own voice, while his lips continued to move. This was just plain silly, in a room full of grown adults, Foot‘s capricious voices and the subsequent violence had us all in a frenzy of laughter and spilled drinks. And it is difficult to do him justice here with the written word.
Still, there was time for what Foot introduced as “literal surrealism”, when he set up an unlikely but plausible scenario, with the words “What about…?” And yes, “What about a business man who has sat on a bar of chocolate?” And, “What about, a teacher from an all boys school who is strangely attracted to minibuses? Six seaters even?”
For the most part the audience goes with him as he jaunts off, thrusting his hips and shaking his head and hair, but there were some dissenters in the room. However, Foot is a seasoned veteran of the comedy circuit, and rather than merely ignore, or put down the heckler, he spent three minutes or more whipping up the rest of the crowd before asking the said loud mouth to repeat his words. He couldn’t do it, and rather than it putting Foot off his stride, said bloke and his acquaintances soon got up and left. They weren’t missed.
At the top of the night, he told us that his agent had said he’d be unable to improvise an entire tour, and so he subsequently “wrote the best show ever”. It probably isn’t. But, I thought it was as I made my way out of the building. And maybe that’s where I’m wrong, maybe that’s the true essence of comedy, living in the moment, feeling and laughing with like-minded folk.
Foot‘s not a genius, he’s a comedian, or better he’s a conductor of brilliant comedy. And you’d be daft to not go and experience it live.