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Simon Munnery's AGM09
Published on Saturday, 29 August 2009

It must be confidence bordering on hubris that causes a comedian to bring a show to the Fringe six years running, without changing the format. Simon Munnery has done just that with his Annual General Meeting at The Stand. Unfortunately, I feel the shine of novelty is wearing away from his act, and what is left is a little dull.

Munnery's routine is to split his show into three parts. The first part consists of unfocussed and often incoherent jokes, anecdotes and songs, supplemented this year by unfocussed and incoherent short films. The second part, taking you to the end of the allotted time at the venue, is a debate of motions submitted by the audience during the interval - and the third part is a continuation of this section after the show has finished at a bar across the road (Lord Bodo's, if you're interested).

The motions and debates are what draw people to the AGM, and because of the reliance on the wit of the audience, can be hit and miss. Sometimes they allow Munnery to jump off into an entertaining aside, but more often they are damp squibs: draw one out, squint to read the handwriting, say 'whatever' and pick a new one.

He does gain the audience's empathy with stories about his kids and his battle with various illnesses (cancer included), but the goodwill is squandered with muttered non-sequiturs and rambling tales. Ultimately, it's hard to feel sympathy with someone complaining about the rent on their stately home in the country.

I wasn't able to stay for the post-show debate in the bar, but having done so in previous years my sense is it remains the most innovative part of the routine. It's a good experience to have such an intimate sense of involvement in the show, and is interesting to see the performer up close. It's also a good way for Munnery to get drunk on the cheap, as memory serves!

The AGM is on the verge of becoming a Fringe institution, as the sell-out crowds suggest. No doubt we'll be back again in 2010, but I hope by then that Munnery has found a way to put some of the old sparkle back into the meeting.

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