Otherwise known as “The Canadian Loon” and “Knight Errant of Tomfoolery”, Tony Law is a man of mystery and, for this show at least, a man dressed in a high-density, floor-length cape and Mickey Mouse gloves.
The alternative comedy scene is a dangerous and rarely visited place. The general public don’t dare stray from the beaten path in case they catch some Dadaistic values towards entertainment and can’t appreciate Gogglebox or sitcoms again. However, Bristol is no stranger to the alternative comedy scene; strange, cult-like gatherings of its followers appear across the city from time to time at events such as Noel Fielding’s recent materialization at Colston Hall.
Unlike Noel Fielding, Tony Law did not rely on characters or clever stagecraft to aid his performance. In fact, there was only one lighting change, cued by shouting “Code word lighting change!” and no sound effects that didn’t come straight from Law himself, including an agglomeration of accents, “I wrote this bit so I could learn an Irish accent in all honesty”, the blowing of a raspberry turned WWII aircraft noises, and a trombone, which despite being played through a mask of a horse’s head was surprisingly proficient.
The Tobacco Factory Theatre’s infamous pillars could have restricted the views of a lot of the audience, but Law’s strut (an emphasised version of the type of pacing assumed by most comedians, only punctuated by lunges) and booming presence enabled us all to feel included in the performance where another comic may have fallen short, tending towards the security of the microphone stand.
I was unsure why we were given an interval to a one-man show which lasted around an hour and a quarter. The first half featured general absurdity and a skit based on the trauma felt after discovering and naming a human head in a forest. It was somewhat overshadowed by the slicker second act. Law took us on a perilous journey in his ‘classic’Citroën Xsara Picasso, a deathtrap on wheels, especially when accompanied by his free-roaming, black German Shepherd, ‘Wolfy’. We were also advised not to purchase three sausage dogs at the same time, as they are likely to create three times the grief, “…and difficult to explain to three-year-old twins, ‘Oh look, there goes another one!’” To finish there was a re-submergence of some old material – an elephant walks into a bar routine – but it was carefully brought-up in the context of a failed gig in which he was bailed out by a teenage girl who knew his act by the sentence. By no means did this part of the act stray from Law’s trademark nonsense, but the more relatable – dare I say observational – humour, hit home harder than earlier, and I was surrounded by an unfaltering cacophony of laughter by the time he ended his show.
One of Law’s favourite tools was self-deprecation. Stand-up comedians are often seen to mock themselves, but here it seemed to run deeper as he seemed to be parodying stand-up itself, “You’re going to go home and be asked what you did on Sunday. Was it Stand-up?…Erm… Theatre?…Erm, other.” When the jokes, or ‘bits’ as he prefers to call them didn’t land too well, he could rely on this to bring the room back together.
The loud whispers of the couple sat behind me informed everyone in my area of the audience that “it is the fluctations in his voice that make the audience react with laughter despite the lack of relatable material in his set.” If you happen to read this, thank you for your very audible, mid-performance deconstructions. Please leave your email address and await accreditation.
A self-proclaimed esoteric funny man, “I entertain the people who go to comedy 25 times a year” The random content and structure of the show may have scared of the ordinary comedy punter, who would run back in panic to their sofas to the familiar observations of Michael McIntyre or [insert anyone from Live at the Apollo/BBC 3 here]. If Peter Kay could end each night of his 2010 arena tour playing the shovel, you would imagine Law is not far away from a wave of critical success, should he choose to ride it. However, with the politically-aspiring Eddie Izzard securing global audiences on an international arena tour, it is up to the bravery of comedians like Tony Law to fill the shoes of 1970s alternatives such as Spike Milligan and Monty Python, or we will lose our quirky, childish sense of humour to the mainstream.