For a comedian with such a cult following, renowned for surrealist originality, I was very excited about my first encounter with Paul Foot’s comedy. It is immediately apparent, however, that Foot divides crowds. Some love him, others, myself included, remain surprisingly stoic and unmoved.
As a performer, Foot has many aspects to be appreciated.
Foot is a definite eccentric, appearing on stage with magnificent silver lace-up shoes, a padlock attached to a belt loop, a paisley tie, and that highly unique haircut -- short on top, long and wavy on the sides, resembling Filch from Harry Potter-- that manages to look suspiciously well-maintained, something of a novel gimmick. His entrance leaves the audience in roars of enthusiastic laughter, as he attempts to ‘mount’ a member of the audience, getting right in there with highly personal questions about their sexual prowess. He does a good job of warming up his crowd, who break into peals of laughter at his every second word. The youngsters like myself seem comparatively unmoved, making one wonder whether it is our generation or the one above that lacks a real sense of humour.
After opening on the awfulness of attending an all-boys school, which raised some very good and pithy points about single sex education, Foot moved on to married couples going on holiday, embarking on one of his famed tirades, building to a point of exhausted fury in the mimicry of an ageing couple, ending with sweat dripping from his brow. His act certainly is high energy, and judging by the levels of laughter, people find his fit hilarious. This technique of repetition of a simple idea, building up to levels of frustration never before seen reoccurs several times throughout the set; in isolation, these are funny, but they seem to cover for what appears to be a sparsity in material, and the device is overused.
A series of “literal surrealist” scenarios follow. This is a form of comedy coined on the spot by Foot, indicating “comedy that is possible but highly unlikely”, all possessing the common punchline that there is no punchline. They are surrealist at best, incoherent at worst, with a few interesting commentaries in the middle. There are admittedly some fantastic one-liners in this part, and his delivery is like no other, but once again, it’s just not really my thing.
Foot’s show does leave much room for audience participation, culminating in getting the most kind-looking member of the front row to punch an adorable stuffed animal in the face. Foot certainly knows how to rouse a crowd, and his fans seem to adore him; one man next to me had literal tears of laughter rolling down his face. His delivery certainly relies on his eccentricity and his wild movement, in addition to the rants and tirades that are almost synonymous to his name. The material however felt sparse, with punchlines being repeated far too often; sections that could have come to a comic close much sooner were drawn out for minutes at a time. As a performer, Foot has many aspects to be appreciated. For witty, pithy and quick comedy however, Paul Foot’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Piglet is probably not for you.