Simon Donald is clearly a funny man. He can clearly write good jokes and deliver them with skill and a likeable and endearing charm but his show, Butch Straight Poof rests uneasily with me. His premise is that he is a butch straight poof: he is butch in that he likes football, red tools and owns a shed; he is straight, well, because he is a heterosexual; and he is a ‘poof’ because he wears flowery shirts, drinks earl grey tea and has a somewhat camp persona. The obvious generalisations elicited were boring, tired and bordering on insensitive.
He opened the show by telling us about all the other ideas he had had for fringe show, but then rejected. They ranged from hilarious anecdotes about his uber-Geordie grandmother to the game show style ‘What would a tramp do?’, which stank of more tedious generalisations. Some of them were hilarious and had ripples of roaring laughter flowing through the very receptive audience. Then the bulk of the show consisted of naming reasons and making observations on why he had been ‘accused’ of homosexuality. The butch bin, the straight grate and the poof pot were filled to the brim with stale sweeping statements and many, many football references. This is probably a show aimed at ‘blokes’, ‘guys’ and ‘lads’, which annoyingly eliminates a rather large portion of his possible audience. To be fair, there were jokes and observations that addressed other sides of the coin, but the overall tone was very much catered to this kind of bloke-y comedy.
Obviously, Simon Donald is making a satirical observation. He is clearly no homophobe and pokes fun at the ridiculous ways we pigeonhole people into these categories that clearly don’t fit real human beings. His short ‘serious bit’ about the real implications of homophobia (of course, only when related to football) was sensitive and touching, but it didn’t make up for the fact that, although he was using irony, he didn’t really bother to stop and question the ludicrous assumptions and sweeping statements to which the show was anchored, leaving an uncomfortable, uneasy feeling that there was something not quite right with his handling of the subject.
Donald is a great stand up; he is energetic, likeable, cheeky and witty. His use of multimedia was perfectly timed and integrated smoothly, but this show is still a bit outdated. His references were catered to quite a specific audience, and the way he joked about ‘poofs’ and being an effeminate man felt like tired territory. Comedy has moved on, and I hope Simon Donald can keep up or else he might get left behind.