'I could tell you anything I want and you would have to believe it!' yells Mark Forward about twenty minutes into his show, as an invisible falcon perches on his arm. This image, plus the backstories of a family of chipmunks and a convenience store fancy-hat rack, will stick with you for a few days (if not longer) after this brilliant and inventive hour of stand-up is over.
He repeatedly berates us for paying too little attention or not laughing enough. This is obviously a gimmick, as more often than not he has to make himself heard over the sound of spectators’ mirth.
What strikes you first is Forward’s style. It’s not quite observational, not quite character comedy, but a weird mix of the two, with some storytelling tropes borrowed from the world of motion pictures thrown in. To make all of this work, Forward has an erratic, offbeat style that varies from section to section. At some points, the emphasis is on the way he pronounces certain words; at others, it’s his dramatisation of unlikely scenarios; at others, it’s the leaps from one bit to the next that get the laughs.
The hour is not without the odd low point, but because you never know where the next gag is coming from, Forward stays in complete control throughout the show. This allows him space to be as creative as his imagination will allow him. The set isn’t all extended fantasies though; there are some shorter, more conventional jokes sprinkled through the set. These are funny by themselves but the laughs they get are multiplied by the haphazard way Forward switches gears throughout.
As if this meandering style is not enough to throw audiences off, he repeatedly berates us for paying too little attention or not laughing enough. This is obviously a gimmick, as more often than not he has to make himself heard over the sound of spectators’ mirth. His kind of humour isn’t the kind that provokes a big sort of collective laugh – rather, people pick up on it individually, creating that strange sound of small groups of people laughing in spite of themselves. Forward takes this peculiar characteristic of his audience's laughter and turns it back on them, getting more bang for his comedic buck. He’s a big man but he’s always one step ahead of us, leading us down his merry path.