Donal Coonan: Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today

Sometimes you stumble on a stand-up so freshly funny that you remember why you started liking unknown comedy shows in the first place.

The genius of this show is its universality. We all remember that one day when that supply teacher turned up who was completely out of his or her tree

Mr Grebe turns up with a register one day in a bright, badly fitting jacket and explains that the usual teacher is sick. Possibly with something serious. As he is unsure of what subject the class has been learning, or maybe does not really care, he promises to teach us “everything” instead. What follows is as close to everything as can be managed. Donal Coonan's dry, sardonic delivery is perfectly matched to his material. He rattles through English and Chemistry. He reassures us that he is DBS checked as he acts out magnetic attraction with an audience member, and covers P.E. and Art. The latter sees an introspective tango to Hernando's Hideaway, with an easel playing the part of his ex-wife. It's charming physical comedy. Biology teaches us the life cycle of a butterfly. As Mr Grebe struggles out of his terry towelling chrysalis to the sound of The Snowman's Walking in the Air, it's difficult to tell if he is struggling into or out of existential crises.

Unexpectedly, the audience are desperate to play the role of the class. People are falling over themselves to correctly answer questions and write lines when they are naughty by turning into a gas instead of a solid. I'm not sure if role-playing comedy is even a genre, but by the feel of tonight, it ought to be.

The genius of this show is its universality. We all remember that one day when that supply teacher turned up who was completely out of his or her tree. The one who smelt of cigarettes or booze and whose eye twitched. It's a cliche that easily lends itself to comedy and Mr Grebe is a hugely enjoyable character to explore. Some of the funniest comedy acts transcend the material, you just start laughing and can't put your finger on why and then you just carry on laughing every time they say something else or don't say something. This is exactly what happened here tonight.

There is still work that could be done on this show. I think Coonan could work the pauses with a little more confidence. His facial expression while he is waiting for the class to quieten down is humorously counterproductive and this joke could run on longer and more frequently.

I really enjoyed this hilarious character comedy and look forward to taking Mr Grebe's advance class next year.

Reviews by Julia French

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The Blurb

Mr Grebe (AKA Donal Coonan, **** (The List)) is a supply teacher on the verge of existential collapse. His rollercoaster all-subjects lesson features essential wisdom drawn from his bumpy life. Witness human snooker balls (Science), a tango lesson with an easel (Art) and a glimpse into the internal life of a piece of loft insulation (Philosophy). This show is not for the OFSTED inspectors. But it is for you. "A gloriously daft comic performance with a bit of heart and a lot of laughs" ***** (Fringe Guru).