Tim Renkow: King of the Tramps

Tim Renkow has a handy tip for anyone who feels uncomfortable around him as a result of his cerebral palsy. The trick is, he says, to think of him as a physical metaphor for Brexit.

He seems to take genuine glee in playing up to people’s misinformed view of him and by using his condition to effectively troll members of the general public

True, Renkow relies on his disability for a lot of laughs in King of the Tramps. As he does on his heritage, pointing out that, as a part-Mexican, part-Jewish, disabled American man living in London, he gives any racists or xenophobes who confront him a list of options from which to choose (though sometimes they still get it wrong). However, both of these aspects of his life are used as a front for the real creative drive behind most of the material – Renkow’s withering misanthropy.

His sceptical worldview doesn’t seem to be informed by his condition – he isn’t embittered by it by any means. Rather, he seems to take genuine glee in playing up to people’s misinformed view of him and by using his condition to effectively troll members of the general public, whether it’s acting as the ‘monster next door’ to anyone who kicks their football in his garden or trying to pay his bus fare with a paperclip and then asking for his change. As tolerant and enlightened Edinburgh Fringe audience-members we know by rights that we shouldn’t laugh at these types of routines, but because they are delivered by Renkow with such verve and in such a devil-may-care attitude we cannot help it.

As a result of the way his CP affects his speech, one weapon in the stand-up’s arsenal that is unavailable to Renkow is the sort of ring-a-ding-ding delivery so often employed by other comics. As such, the joke writing has to be top quality – and is. He keeps the gags coming at a steady pace throughout – there’s a lot of feedline-punchline work, some pull-back-and-reveal, and in the venerable tradition of American stand-up comedy, the odd ‘motherfucker’ thrown in to keep things ticking over.

There are times, however, when some of Renkow’s antics begin to sound a bit unrealistic. For example, can we believe that his mother advised him to physically confront the homeless man accosting him instead of calling the police? And that he actually did it? It’s done for the sake of setting up the next gag, but the slightly incredible set-up for some of the jokes deflates their pay-off.

These instances build up towards the end of the gig, with the routines becoming a bit repetitive as we approach the hour mark. It has to be said that it does begin to feel a little light on material – there’s a good forty-five-minute set here but maybe not enough to stretch to the full sixty. However, the fully developed material Renkow has to offer is top quality. It’s the Free Fringe so bring a friend – this is definitely worth a look. 

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The Blurb

Answering the age-old question: Is it better to be homeless? Or hounded by the homeless? As seen on BBC, ITV, NBC and sleeping on a park bench. ‘Ferociously good... a renegade’ **** (Copstick, Scotsman). **** (Skinny). **** (Chortle.co.uk). **** (BroadwayBaby.com). **** (Fest). Winner: Amused Moose Laugh Off, Leicester Square's New Comedian of the Year, nominated Chortle Best Newcomer and Guardian Critics’ Choice. www.pay-what-you-want.info