“Heard of Simon Munnery?” asks the blurb in the Fringe programme. Many have: the ex-League Against Tedium, ex-Urban Warrior is currently reinventing stand-up comedy with his touring Fylm shows. “Heard of Søren Kierkegaard?” continues the blurb. Heard of him? This reviewer couldn’t even pronounce his name when asking for a ticket.
Munnery made this show work because he is one of the very best comedians out there.
Munnery decided on the title back in February, having been inspired by fellow comic genius Arthur Smith. “If Arthur can have, Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen,” reasons Munnery, “I can have Simon Munnery Sings Soren Kierkegaard.” Kierkegaard was a nineteenth century satirist, theologian and poet from Denmark. Apparently he invented existential philosophy and had a passion for attacking organised religion. Of course, he didn’t sing songs, so instead Munnery raps or recites extracts from some of his many works.
Munnery’s self-penned surrealist rap about Russian President Putin (he poos in a tin) was a comic highlight. There were very few funnies in the Kierkegaard material however. Munnery bravely embarks on a four minute extract of Kierkegaard’s book, The Present Age, using the mixed up accents of John Lydon and Kenneth Williams. But the audience’s laughs were at Munnery’s voice rather than the contents of the piece, which, interestingly, sought to satirise satire itself.
The show also featured an extended piece from Kierkegaard’s diary about his trousers, which was a nineteenth century rant about gossip in the popular press. It did make me wonder what he would have made of our media, almost two hundred years later. We also heard Munnery’s fascinating take on The Jam’s classic The Eton Rifles, which explained how a song that was supposed to send up the ruling class became a favourite of David Cameron’s.
Ultimately, Munnery made this show work because he is one of the very best comedians out there. He challenged himself to do a show about a philosopher that almost no-one had heard of – and he succeeded. As Kierkegaard might have said, “this is a Fringe show fit for this age.”