Mime and physical theatre can be risky aspects of a comedy show. Taken too seriously, they can easily tip over into the ridiculous and the resulting hour can become a slow death by awkwardness. Thankfully, this is entirely not the case with The Pajama Men.
In the hands of Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez (often literally ‘in the hands of’) the art of movement becomes a marvellously silly, extremely amusing tool. The Pajama Men, with a little musical support from pianist Kevin Hume, seem to be able to portray pretty much any event hilariously, using little more than their arms and legs and two ordinary chairs, drawing you into their bizarre world and making you forget very quickly that all that is in front of you are two men in sleepwear.
The duo even showcase specialist areas within their craft, with Allen creating memorably grotesque characters like the oleaginous court wizard and bullish Dixieland police officer whilst Chavez excels at breathing comedic life into the inanimate (I never thought I’d find an amusement-arcade claw machine so genuinely amusing) and the animal (his bemused coach-horse had me in stitches).
However, what may be lost amongst the frantic gurning and the non-stop movement is that this is also a very cleverly-structured show. Although each of the individual vignettes may seem extremely random when first introduced, an over-arching story of knights, kings and monsters forms organically throughout the show, leading to a dramatic conclusion 700 years in the making.
What really appeals about The Pajama Men is that it’s extremely inclusive comedy. With the best will in the world, any stand-up will have to make references which part of their audience might not get. However the larger-than-life characters and physical humour in this show translate across age, social and language barriers, making it fun for (potentially, with a little less swearing) the whole family.
To understand why The Pajama Men are as funny as they are you really need to see them. I will promise you this though - they may be dressed for bed but you’ll be the one going to sleep with aching cheeks from an hour of constant grinning.