Leo Kearse, in his guise as Pun-Man, has a simple mission: to save the world of comedy from banal observational stand-up and self-righteous, long-winded anecdotes. In this, the current UK Pun Champion is a qualified success, delivering an hour of dizzying highs mixed with a few nauseating lows.
Kearse’s strategy of accepting topics on which to pun from spectators is risky in the extreme
Puns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and keeping an audience onside for the duration of an Edinburgh hour would be a struggle for any comic. With this in mind, Kearse’s strategy of accepting topics on which to pun from spectators is risky in the extreme – an equal mixture of bravery and foolhardiness. As a result, the show has a very unstructured feel to it. Kearse starts with some scripted punning before opening the floor up to the audience, taking suggestions on “any subject at all!” He is really flying by the seat of his superhero pants at times, with some cracking sequences (the one on weather in the Middle East a particular favourite) mixed with a few howlers (long erased from memory). Give him his due, Kearse is the first to accept when the pun doesn’t quite hit the target, his self-deprecation at these points allowing him to score some much-deserved rebound laughs.
On a few occasions, the Pun-Man mask slips – he betrays his original mission and reverts to a more orthodox comedy stance. Routines on the more familiar subjects of trains, one-night stands, and foreign toilet plumbing come a little out of the blue, but are respite from the seemingly ceaseless flow of wordplay on either side.
With the hit-or-miss nature of Pun-Man’s call for audience suggestions, the show does begin to drag a tiny bit. However, Kearse’s massive reserves of charm are more than enough to see him through the more niche topics. If you’re a fan of the genre, this is definitely worth the few spare quid rattling around in your pocket.