Review: Tony Law Maximum Nonsense – Soho Theatre, London

Posted on 21 February 2013
By Angela Johnson
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Canadian-come-Londoner Tony Law’s Maximum Nonsense show was nominated for the coveted Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award 2012, after, as he asserts, 12 years’ spent honing his particular brand of cunning nonsense in Jongleurs’ basement clubs.

Last night, The Soho Theatre’s basement was filled for one of the most enjoyable hours spent deconstructing stand up you can hope to spend your money on (this month, at least. I fear if his head/hair grows any bigger the audiences may suffocate.) Boasting an unusual look that is part viking, part pirate – or ‘Piking’, if you will – Law holds up ‘banter’ to the audience (or rather exclaims the word repeatedly) lambasting fellow comedians who address only the ‘lads’, leading to the most acceptable ‘one liner’ about rape you’re likely to witness (simply quoting statistics of how many rapes go unreported).

Law commands our attention from the off, and don’t dare lose him or you will be left adrift a minefield of clever, baffling and hilarious non sequiturs. Who else could cover Cameron, Clarkson, barbecued panda, talking elephants, rape, vikings, pirates, Pol Pot, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and cocaine abuse in the 70s all rounded off with the accompaniment of the only two solemn notes it’s possible to learn on a steel drum?

Fiercely intelligent and playful with it, Law laments his equivalents’ thirst to litter their sets with literary references, he guides us on a journey to a land far away to segue in the only book he remembers reading as a child; Puff the Magic Dragon. How we got there I can’t quite remember, but it was somewhere between learning the linguistic origins behind the Viking game ‘scoop mud’ and his pirate uncle Long John Silver Blackbeard becoming a fire breathing dragon. Despite this last sentence, I hesitate in labelling his comedy ‘surreal’ as it is extremely accessible to anyone equipped with a sense of humour and imagination. Plus, with Law, almost everything he says is analysed and explained to us immediately – he just can’t seem to help himself. It’s clear he is lampooning the likes of Michael McIntyre’s Apollo shtick, as Law picks on random historical characters in the audience to perform spontaneous “pre-prepared material” about, which is where the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot and Archduke Franz Ferdinand came in (not literally, OBVS.)

While Law’s zany (I hate this label too) act is overtly anti-mainstream, he acknowledges that his lengthy years in the comedy basements have been a struggle and admits that he yearns for the Apollo stage. This admission is clearly tongue in cheek but, as Law becomes a familiar face (how could you forget that hair?) on TV panel shows it will be interesting to see how he slots into the “Apollo” generation of comedians. After all, without the mainstream, Law’s act would be bereft if comics like Jack Whitehall and his ‘laddish yet posh’ persona spouting ‘banter’ about Her Majesty’s lady parts were eradicated. I suspect Law picks on Whitehall mainly because he can do an impeccable impression of him rather than any real malice. Law’s observations about observational comedy could be found somewhat exhausting by some, but it is a worthwhile exploration for your money.

Much like Law’s show, I’m unsure how to end this review, so either go look at some photos of toy elephants or catch Law’s dumb(o) crescendo while you can. Tony Law’s Maximum Nonsense runs until Saturday 2nd March. http://sohotheatre.com/whats-on/tony-law-maximum-nonsense

Click rating: **** (Excellent)