Paul Foot: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major @ Underbelly
Paul Foot is a frenetic and scrawny basket case, which he makes clear before even getting onstage. He’s at his best when it feels the most unscripted, but his material is all so crazy it’s hard to say what that would be.
At the beginning of the show there’s a scream from the back and out rushes Paul Foot, claiming the microphone is broken – so he’ll have to do his off-stage introduction of himself from the stage. In a schizophrenic comedy haze he acts out the half-finished jokes from his imagination, which he had decided to cut. Mostly, he declares, because his agent insisted that he not use them. These deranged “unscripted” moments have the audience in absolute stitches, but they do make his more conventional jokes about dinner parties seem like duds.
His jittery, awkward limbs darting wildly across the stage is one of the funniest parts of the show. Reeling across the stage like a madman, his funny observational jokes don’t feel quite right. But he dips easily and often back into the outrageous stunts that have the audience in hysterics once again. It’s as if the stories he tells about his life are his awkward attempts to play at being a typical comedian – the audience waiting expectedly for the drop – and then he leaps back into his particular brand of antics again.
It’s difficult to say whether this is accidental or not. It could be carefully orchestrated, from the offstage scream at the beginning for a microphone that perhaps was never there, to the weird transitions from observational jokes to oddball antics. But you could also believe that every bit of it is completely pulled out of the air. The art is the helter-skelter oddness of it, and all part of the delight and hysteria of Paul Foot.