Sunil Patel @ Monkey Barrel

From crowd-pleasing bits to longer stories about his personal life, Sunil Patel's analytical take on comedy isn't what the people want - But that turns out to be its biggest advantage

Review by Emma Sullivan | 18 Aug 2022
  • Sunil Patel

Well-known for his deadpan, oblique wit, Sunil Patel’s new show is a showcase of delicately calibrated humour. The title comes from a Henry Ford quote: 'If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses’, but instead, of course, Ford invented the car, or, in Patel’s words, ‘an engine on a bed frame that goes 3mph’. Patel also doesn’t give the people what they want, but in spite of that (indeed, because of that) his show is very funny. It may be a slow-moving bed frame, but it’s a lot of fun to get on board.

The carefully considered palette of his comedy feels like an antidote to the raucous and the zany, and the confessional mode, too; all crowd-pleasing qualities. He does make concessions, though, and the bits about his parents are understated but fond. The longer stories, mostly about his patchwork professional life, all share a refusal to really catch fire, and are deliberately, and very amusingly, anti-climactic. Interestingly, this analytical take on comedy is comparable with the interest in systems revealed by some of his other jobs: speculation in bitcoin, art dealing, gambling on horses (which did ok financially but left him ‘spiritually and morally bankrupt’).

He punctuates the stories with some of his lockdown ideas, initially genuine attempts to make money, but then more fanciful. They’re hard to categorise, and very droll, and, as we find out later, not as perverse or absurd as they seem when his deadpan attempts to game the system finally lead to something rather sweet.

Sunil Patel: Faster Horses, Monkey Barrel Comedy (Monkey Barrel 1), until Aug 28, 1:55pm, £7-9