Live Report - Simon Munnery, 'Fylm-Makker'
Posted on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 | No Comments
Hang on a second, but this isn't music...what kind of nonsense is this?
Well, pretty damn fine nonsense really. Simon Munnery has consistently been one of the most surreal and distinctive British comics around for the last two decades. Whether in character as Alan Parker: Urban Warrior or The League Against Tedium (as whom he made a low budget, sporadically brilliant and sadly ignored BBC sketch series, Attention Scum!), hosting one of his unique experiments such as conceptual restraunt La Concepta or touring the stand-up circuit, Simon Munnery's mixture of outlandish intelligence, sharp one-liners and genteel silliness is reliably hilarious and delightful.
One issue that can be raised about his work, especially in recent years, is the re-use of material throughout his shows. Understandable perhaps with many of his newer ideas being funnelled towards his Annual General Meetings during the Edinburgh Fringe or projects like La Concepta, this has still left his touring stand-up show underwhelmingly static and predictable.
For his new touring show however, Simon Munnery has not just revitalised his own act but also come up with what may well be the most inventive hour of comedy this year. Debued at the Fringe last year, Fylm-Makker sees Munnery attempting to bridge the gap between live performance and 'dead' film. Sat at a desk at the back of the audience, Simon Munnery's face is projected onto the stage, allowing him to address the audience whilst also cutting away to his own live, lo-fi animations - live films, or in Munnery's parliance, fylms.
Ably assisted by Mick Moriatry on guitar, what ensues over the next hour is a fast mixture of short sketches, home-spun animation and puppetry, comic songs, frantic scribbling and plenty of other glorious pissing about. There's far too many highlights to mention (and when writing about comedy, trying not to spoil the punchline is usually a good idea...), but percolating around my brain today as I remember the night's proceedings are the night's Fall-esque theme song, D.I.Y. animations concerning Mexican bandits and The Stations of Lacrosse, plenty of messing around with the show's innovative format and one utterly, utterly perfect joke around throwing babies: trust me, the joke and pay-off are superb, unexpected and quite inarguable.
Beyond the obvious novelty of how Munnery stages the show, Fylm-Makker also gets to the heart of what makes Munnery such a formidable talent. The rough, cut-and-paste constructions in Fylm-Makker's animations bear the influence of Terry Gilliam's work with Monty Python, but the greatest trick Munnery's cribbed from them - both in this show and throughout his career - is his inate understand of how grounding a flight of fancy within the real and the mundane makes them infinetely funnier and more surreal. Just as the drab London suburbs that hosted the menagerie of oddities that littered Flying Circus made them even more outlandish, the cheap effects, D.I.Y. equipment (complete with light bulbs courtesy of Wilkinson's and colour filters from a Coronation Street tin) and dips into deadpan underline the remarkable imagination that fuels Munnery's comedy.
Catching the first night of the tour at The Stand comedy club in Newcastle, there are a few teething issues with the equipment beyond some of the comic pseudo-ineptitude that litters the show, and long-time Munnery fans will notice routines on modern art vs. comedy and the fate of the Hindenburg returning in the current show. In this instance though, the innovation of the form does change the material and breathes new life into it in a way that justifies their inclusion.
Whether you're a long-time fan or a newcomer to Simon Munnery's work, Fylm-Makker is a comedy show unlike anything else that you'll have seen before. Rough round the edges it might be, but the density of the ideas and the sheer gag ratio make it unmissable for any comedy connoisseurs. Check the Simon Munnery website to see the rest of his tour dates for this show.