I reviewed Forde’s 2019 show Brexit, Pursued by a Bear and wrote of how his political comedy was as therapeutically valuable as it was satirically satisfying. I wrote of Forde’s caustic and angry analysis of the apocalyptic state of the nation, how the audience’s laughter seemed to epitomise a sense of small victory in the fight for some semblance of truth and decency, and how everyone in that room seemed desperate to find something to laugh about at a time of impending national crisis.
As razor-sharp and excoriating as ever
In 2019, Forde was angry. He took our collective rage and used it to ignite a sweeping political bonfire of the vanities. His set was just glorious. Then Covid happened. And Partygate happened. And incident after shabby little incident at home and abroad happened… and all our righteous indignation now seems both quaint and somehow admirable when set against the 2022 backdrop of unremitting stupidity, corruption and division sitting at the heart of our democracy.
It is the same Matt Forde standing before us as three years ago: as razor-sharp and excoriating as ever, but with a weariness and frustration to be underestimated at peril. A weariness which cries ‘WTF’ with every fresh news story. A weariness at an increasingly absurd world in which anything can happen: from Liz Truss almost certainly becoming Prime Minister to punters taking their baby to a comedy show.
The irritation which insinuates its way throughout this show inspires some fabulous gags: Starmer, Sturgeon, Trump, trains, football, Frank Skinner… the cast is extensive and the observations acute. It is a truth universally acknowledged that in seeking to please everyone, a performer will fail to please anyone at all; but Forde treads quite a careful line whilst splattering pretty much all-comers with an eye almost judgemental enough to feature on Squid Game.
I loved it. But to be fair, I'm anybody's for a jam doughnut, some shared betes noires (who ARE those wallopers who stop dead at the top of escalators?) and a half-way decent impersonation of the malevolent scarecrow currently squatting in Number 10. One of the most bizarre things about ageing – and something no-one ever tells you – is that belly laughs become rarer. I suppose because we've already laughed long and loud at so many things that something has to be really special to tickle our jaded funny bones. But in this casually majestic hour of political catharsis the laughs come thick and fast: and it seems appropriately emblematic of the topsy turvy times we are living in that the standup comedian provides the most rational voice of all amidst the clowns to the left of him and the jokers to the right.