Dressed in a black velvet blazer and surrounded by wacky props and huge speakers, Gerry Howell begins Seriousnessmus in silence, gesturing to members of the audience to help him turn some music on. Having created a very strange atmosphere, I’m half expecting Howell to launch into a mime show or perform a magic trick, but he does eventually take hold of the microphone, introducing himself with complete confidence.
Quirky as he is, Howell is able to adapt to his audience with great ease, and is laughing with us within the first few minutes. This connection is continued throughout the show, and Howell gets a lot of laughs as he makes poor attempts to speak in French to an exchange student. Howell’s longest running joke also relies on improvisation. He repeatedly jokes that the show is about to start but hasn’t taken off yet, partly because he also has to deal with unexpectedly loud sounds from inside and outside the venue. The ‘invisible hecklers’ somehow only manage to add to his show.
Howell’s short poems are one of the most successful elements of Seriousnessmus. These are mainly Tim Key-esque, though sometimes not quite as funny. Nevertheless, he is very eloquent, and he uses all of his energy to provide a true performance throughout the show. His comparison between himself and Jesus also goes down particularly well when he manages to bring in his respect for good grammar, another running theme: ‘Jesus would have said fewer’. Similarly short jokes and jibes at the audience work just as well and far better, in fact, than most of his drawn out jokes, which struggle to gain as much appreciation.
Interestingly, though, Howell seems very aware of some flaws in the show, and rather cleverly makes fun of himself when he realises that the dramatic tension is slipping away. His anti-joke that one of his greatest achievements as a comedian is the anti-climax is also perfectly timed, but it’s a relief to see him finish the show by tying in with the shorter poems at the start. There’s work to be done, but Howell claims that his shows are getting better each night, and as the front row had decided to come back and see him again, I think I might just believe him.