Telling someone that you’re not a racist before you say something incredibly racist is not an ingenious or valid way to evade accountability for the subsequent spew to flow from your mouth. Likewise, when Mark Felgate holds up his hands and warns us at the beginning of his routine that he’s a “bit of a dick” (not a whole dick, just a fraction of a dick), it hardly puts us at ease. The negation only suggests the affirmation, but maybe that’s his intention – it’s reverse psychology, or something. You’re forever wondering if he’s going to be a bit of a dick to you.
The real trick up Felgate’s overgrown sleeves is his commendable talent as a ventriloquist
Luckily we have little to worry about. The majority of Felgate’s gags are self-deprecating – he is the principal target of cutting one-liners about his two failed marriages and accursed impish childishness. He laments how clumsily he has lost two wives and two cats with the same whimsical “whoopsy-daisy” as if he had dropped a packet of skittles. There are some typical bitter quips about the expense of divorce with an “am I right?” nod to the audience. It seems that what he assures us is a positive and optimistic outlook on life in fact masks the deeper problem of an immature naivety he simply cannot shake.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Felgate was formerly a presenter on Nickelodeon. At times he does seem to think he’s live on air, performing for a multi-camera audience of young children – a self-satisfied grin soaring from ear to ear. He is a visual comedian – large gesticulations, goggle-eyed expressions, perambulating back and forth across the stage like a child who just can’t sit still. But this isn’t a bad thing. His energy is visceral and contagious: he looks like he’s having too much of a good time to knock him.
The real trick up Felgate’s overgrown sleeves is his commendable talent as a ventriloquist, which he reveals as the product of many nights alone in his room training his tongue to speak without moving his mouth (we’re not sure if this is a joke or not). It has to be said, the ability is quite staggering, and Felgate uses it to hilarious effect – particularly with the aid of two simple hand puppets representing the good and bad angels of his subconscious. This deserves applause.
Another impressive talent is his skill with a guitar (again, he claims, the result of solo practice sessions at night in his room). That Felgate explains that the instrument served as an ample replacement for girls in his hormone-propelled teenage years is at once uproarious and a tad disturbing (that being said, his anatomical comparison between the guitar and the female body is not – staggeringly – completely illogical). Though his crude cunnilingus-wagging tongue is perhaps a graphic gag too far, the songs are undeniably witty and catchy, with laugh-out-loud voice impersonations and ironically juvenile sex jokes that hit the right note.
There’s no dramatic shake-up to the stand-up genre here, but it’s worth seeing for the impressive ventriloquism and cheery songs. The rest is a bit patchy and rough, like Felgate’s own childishly kaleidoscopic view of life. He’s wrong: he isn’t a bit of a dick; he’s just been suppressed as a bit of a teenager for too long. It’s sweet, in a way. His talents have emerged from his perpetual boyish mindset (living in his childhood room at his dad’s house well into his forties is most likely the cause of this). Felgate is the real-life Peter Pan – the boy who never grew up, and he should probably be a very thankful that he didn’t.