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Edinburgh Festival review – Tony Law

Thursday, August 18 2011

Someone's fallen out of love with Law's comedy


Tony Law

Tony Law is my Pixies. All my peers seem to love it, but I just can't get into it. I'm in the minority in the audience as well, most of whom are creased up at his stop-start surreal larking about.

It wasn't always thus. I've howled like a loon at some of Law's routines in the past, and there are bits of Go Mr Tony Go that I adore. I love Law's comedy when he is spinning yarns, creating a whole other world that somehow makes sense, such as his old bears vs sharks story, or his panda bear prostitution and Gok Wan ones in this show.

It's the self-commentary and post-modernism that undoes all the good work for me. It's not necessarily a new part of his act but it's becoming emboldened and starting to suffocate the good stuff. If all he did was blow up little bubbles of surrealism, I'd be first in the queue, but they are inevitably followed by the pinprick of deconstruction.

On numerous occasions he refers to his routine or his chosen career path. There are constant asides like "a clever comedian would make something of that; package that shit up, make it successful", the admission that he has jokes without punchlines, and mocking comedy cliches such as jokes about his appearance and shows that have a 'journey'. He also has a recurring thread on how he's a "dangerous" comic who takes the path others fear to take – the path that leads away from mainstream success. At least he does it with bullet-proof charisma, which seems to get him through.

I don't have any problem with any of this on paper, and self-indulgence can perversely be a wonderful thing in stand-up, but I feel like there's so much self-commentary and so little other stuff that there's barely anything left to commentate on anymore. All point and no content, like an artist who presents a blank canvas as art. I may be over-emphasising this aspect of the show but it's just frustrating to have fallen out of love with Law's comedy.

There's also loads of this po-mo ironic humour around, it's almost more cliche than maverick now. Doing a faux-observational comedy routine then saying something about "is that good enough to get on Michael McIntyre?" is commonplace. I put it down to people trying to emulate Stewart Lee, whom Law echoes in this show by comparing his comedy to jazz, and by claiming to be the nth best stand-up in the world. I can understand a fledgling comic borrowing from a master but why should someone with proven pedigree?

By putting his show on at noon at the Stand, Law is already challenging people not to like him, and that's before you even get to his belligerent stand-up style. So you suspect he won't care if he loses people along the way, possibly even enjoy it.

Anyway, there are a few set pieces to break things up, such as a video of an arrogant financier, played by Law, and he has a guest (his own twin called Ynot) to perform a song as a big finale. That ends up turning in on itself as well, and I leave feeling a little haunted.

2 stars

Go Mr Tony Go! is on at noon at the Stand Comedy Club.

What the punters say

Toby, Wiltshire: 5/5. "It's my favourite thing I've seen so far at the Fringe. I saw him years ago and I had to see him again.
Felicity, Wiltshire: 5/5: "He gets better every time I see him."
Helen, Manchester: 4.5. "Love it. I'd love to know where he gets his ideas."


Review written by Paul Fleckney

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