‘This show’s quite silly,’ Gordon Southern says with sheepish grin, after bombarding the audience with a series of daft puns, prerecorded jingles and strange spoken word. Well, yes.
When you trade in wordplay that would make even Tim Vine cringe and can, with a straight face, suggest ‘Nonconsensual Sex And The City’ as one of a rapid-fire list of TV Shows That Should Never Have Been Made, ‘silly’ will be a conclusion most people will come to.
But this show is more than that: It’s also poetic, clever and joyfully freewheeling, performed by a man with more ridiculous ideas than an entire year’s worth of Dragon’s Den.
Southern was a great fan of comic annuals as a child – though the ‘wussy, middle class’ Dandy gets short shrift – and in tribute, he presents the Gordon Southern version, with jokes, puzzles and comic strips to delight even the most jaded old curmudgeon.
It’s a kaleidoscopic, topsy-turvy tome, read mainly at breakneck speed (has he a bus to catch?). Idiotic riffs on the problem he has in reading books until the end – he’s only managed to get through, ha ha, 80 Dalmatians, 98 Years of Solitude, etc – collide with an edu-tainment sketch on the dangers of taking drugs. Then he stops the whole circus in its tracks by presenting a surreal and rather beautiful passage likening the act of sleeping to the behaviour of the sea. It’s completely unexpected and, while a comedy gig is not really the time or the place (as he readily acknowledges), it sort of works.
Southern is a comic who delights in leading audiences along a certain, familiar path and then taking a sharp U-turn to reveal an even more satisfying vista. In his hands, even a moan about jet lag, or a seemingly mediocre rant about novelty T-shirts gets skewed into something pleasantly, or (even better) unpleasantly, surprising. This makes it rather a disappointment when he includes the rare gag that doesn’t pull the rabbit out of the hat and just turns out to be mediocre.
He recently performed for troops in Afghanistan and uses some rather puerile material in his description of the experience. Perhaps it went down well with the squaddies but in the inspired lunacy of this show it sticks out rather. There’s no time to dwell on the thought, though – there’s barely time to register the punch lines with Southern’s relentless, more-is-more approach. The wily devil.
Southern is not an act to experience without your wits close by, it would be rather like trying to play Bop It while stoned, but if you’ve got the stamina, he’s certainly got the goods.