Claiming to have made millions with an 80s boomtime business in the corrugated iron industry (before subsequently nose-diving into bankruptcy), Uncle Henry is certainly rather rich in humour.
With the stated aim of aiding our ailing economy, the format of Uncle Henry’s Happy Hour can essentially be described as Dragon’s Den meets the Generation Game. Wheeling out peculiar product after peculiar product (including such gems as a sunhat surmounted by a rubber eagle, designed to fend off guerrilla-style seagull attacks and an exercise aid fashioned from a tin of winalot and a legwarmer), Henry’s act is refreshing in its effective use of prop comedy. Variety-show vibes are also added by an audience participation section as gross as it is engrossing; your good reviewer was coerced into competition against another punter, in which the victory was given to he who held his tongue against the power terminals of a 9V battery for the longest time. The shamefully defeated was awarded a fluid-encrusted floppy disk.
A guest spot by the act upstairs, comedian Malcolm Head, added another fun dimension to Uncle Henry’s Happy Hour. Head’s rather original act encompassed a folder full of comebacks, at the ready to rebuke any audience member who dared to accept his invitation to heckle. Following this skit, Head presented a section in which ‘beat poetry’ was reinvented as an opportunity to offer social commentaries which couldn’t be crowbarred into any of his performance poems, drummed out to percussive accompaniment. Even with Uncle Henry offstage, community is built not only between performer and audience, but equally between comic and comic.
This said, there are certainly moments when this camaraderie falters. Henry would do well to drop the opening joke about his incarcerated wife (the prison she’s in is minimum security, so she can still do his laundry!), which is so hackneyed that it feels almost patronising to employ it and wrong-foots the audience into lower expectations than Uncle Henry deserves. A musical outro concerning a handywoman’s attempts to fix his fridge is likewise misjudged; whilst once again conducive to a joyously multimedia feel, the repetitive exclamations of ‘fix my fridge’ are somewhat low on gag value.
Yet the secret of family is to forgive all the little flaws and love them all the same. Uncle Henry is worth a look and certainly worth a laugh.