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Tony Law Maximum Nonsense
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
5

5 stars (Critic's Choice)

The Stand Comedy Club II (venue website)
Comedy
1 Aug, 12:40pm-1:40pm, 4:50pm-5:50pm; 2, 13 Aug, 12:40pm-1:40pm; 3-11, 14-26 Aug, 12:30pm-1:30pm, 12:40pm-1:40pm; 12, 27 Aug, 12:30pm-1:30pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

With only a few quarter-sized posters for advertisements, Tony Law has done his utmost to make his lunchtime show in a basement really hard to find. So anyone with a ticket must really want to be here. There are flags, and micro torches laid out on tables, and it’s not long before Mr Law – part Viking, part pirate, part deconstructive comedian now nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award – emerges.

Law is notorious for dismantling, brick by brick, every over-cooked stand-up convention imaginable, and today is no different. He is relentless, setting straight to work on ‘banter’, and building up a rapport with the audience. He picks out a selection of historical characters in the crowd: there’s Cambodian dictator Pol Pot and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to name but two. No one is truly picked on. Some parents at the front with their son are commended on their “70’s parenting”. It’s all to highlight tedious comic stereotypes of “bullying”, and using shock tactics like dropping “r-bombs”. Law takes the familiar question to front-row members, “Where are you from?” and works it into a section about identity.

As much as this show is about comedy itself, there are underlying themes – you just have to search for them. Law brings up his personal life: growing up on a pig farm in Canada, life in the 70s with nothing but his meagre belongings “and pure cocaine”, moving to the UK, and “changing his lifestyle” after having kids (or “trolls”, as he puts it). But any theme on display has a twist. It’s never a basic story or joke; it’s always about stretching the imagination and pulverising audience expectations.

Law talks about his uncle, a Viking, who took him on Viking raids for “pillaging, plundering, and the other one.” We travel through time on a linguistic tour of Europe. He wedges in more about his uncle going to prison and joining a fire-breathing gang. You’re kept constantly on your toes; the show requires all the focus you can give. Take a moment to sip your drink and you might lose track of where the show is going. Sometimes Law gives the impression he doesn’t know himself. 

He gives us an example of what he’d really like to do in his show: musical comedy, which he admires when done well by the likes of David O’Doherty and Demetri Martin. The only problem being he doesn’t play any musical instruments. And he also “can’t do one-liners.”

No one quite sticks it to mainstream comedy like Tony Law. It’s not that he hates comics like Jack Whitehall – of whom he does a great impression while breaking out the literal elephants in the room – but beneath the deconstructive art form there is a man who’s waded through “10,000 yards of sewage” (he doesn’t quite phrase it that way) to get to this point. He’s been plying his nonsensical, inaccessible trade to Jongleurs’ crowds for years just to make ends meet, and feels he’s now heading in the right direction. Next stop: The Apollo, where he plans to forget all about his time in the basement at lunchtime. He just has to figure out a ‘suitable’ end to his show first.  The ending we get here is incredible.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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