Paul Foot – Still Life
Paul Foot @ Umbrella Revolution
11:30pm, Sat 17 Mar 2012
I tend to prefer comedy that’s a bit… well, out there. Abstract. Verging on the nonsensical, but held together by some thread of coherence that reveals the comedian’s true genius. Hell, Nick Sun is my favourite Australian comedian.
But if you – as a comedian – are going to go Out There, it helps to bring the audience along for the ride… and that, I think, is where Paul Foot loses me.
Now, Foot is clearly confident of his presentation – his awkward physical appearance makes that much clear – but it’s just that his material… well, it seems to be just for him. There’s very little opportunity for the audience to get involved. From the offstage introduction, where Foot babbles to himself (and, eventually, to us) whilst still hidden backstage for a good fifteen minutes, to the absurdly repeated premise of the Pierce Brosnan Cockerel Sanctuary (whose repetition rapidly descends from quirky to grating), Foot takes a sequence of words and plays with them within a very tight space; where other comedians may bounce off words into other stories or trains-of-thought, Foot stays in close, prodding the ideas until the only laughter that remains is out of pity.
When Foot does emerge from backstage, his engagement with the audience is comically confrontational… but that’s still confrontational. There was a lot of uncomfortable shifting in seats when Foot roamed through the audience, and the pay-off from these excursions were often relieved chuckles of I’m-glad-that-wasn’t-me. A long, repetitive ramble about pennies and a horse-head game didn’t help give the act any weight.
Look – I’m all for people trying stuff that’s different; it just has to be somewhat palatable. And Foot seems insistent – almost belligerently so – on keeping the audience as far away from his material as possible. In fact, Still Life almost works better as performance art than comedy; something to observed and interpreted, but not necessarily laughed at.