After a lengthy and highly entertaining series of pre-show public announcements, Andy Zaltzman takes the stage, improbably high forehead peaked by even more unlikely shock of red hair, accessorised with a classic ‘arrow through the head’ prop.
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He waves a pretend certificate establishing his credentials as a professional satirist early on, and brings it out several times, whether as an excuse for something a little close to the bone, or to deflect attention from a duff gag.
There are jokes, by the truckload and a proliferation of puns: most are excellent, the occasional gag tanks – sometimes deservedly, but sometimes a wave of laughter belatedly ripples round as the audience catches up with the mental image, or the punchline.
But there is much more than clever, dextrous wordplay, and it is not merely mocking the week, or the weak.
He covers a lot of ground in a highly enjoyable two hours: the Arab spring and the revolutionary spirit, apathy, the royal family, Hitler, Stalin, Cameron, the global financial crisis, the war on terror. There are a couple of brilliant set-piece tangents: the draw for the next round of global conflicts done via balls out of a bag a la FA cup draw, and the “true” story of Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, as scripted between “Mickey brushes and the J-Dog” aka Pope Julius.
The show has been touring for a while now and so, while well-practised, maybe a couple of routines are starting to fray – Bin Laden and the royal wedding were topical when it started, for instance. Ironically enough, the most topical bit comes when he starts a routine on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. When he gets to the invisible hand and starts riffing on what people actually would do with such a power, there is an immediate Jimmy Savile-based retort from the audience which Zaltzman quickly evaluates and realises his own material isn’t going to top and moves on.
An evening of wit and wisdom, profanity and profundity and, for sure, Zaltzman’s certificate as professional satirist is well-earned.