Comedy: Get your Nietzsche out for the lads, then

League Against Tedium Lyric Studio, London

One of the enduring cliches about the British is that we don't like intellectuals. To us, clever means clever-clever. Which perhaps explains why The League Against Tedium is not a household name while Hale and Pace get their own show on the BBC.

The League consists of Simon Munnery plus an opera singer, an organist, and assorted self-built gadgets. Munnery (you may remember him as Alan Parker: Urban Warrior) has described his new character as "the High Pope of Nietzschean camp", and much has been made of the aphoristic insults he delivers from Zarathustrian heights, like Brian Sewell on laughing gas or Alf Garnett with a degree. This is not "dangerous" - comedy audiences like a bit of abuse. But it is hilarious, which is what matters.

Before the show, the screen he uses beams out messages. Some are pure invective: "Attention, scum: you are nothing, absolutely nothing. You are sub-worms. Behold superiority!" But that's only the half of it. Much funnier are pronouncements such as: "This show features the use of epileptics. Kindly refrain from strobing", or: "This show does not de-grade women. If anything it upgrades them. Raises them on high. Especially so during the caged-dancing section."

The point of his act (I think) is to turn the world on its head. "Fish deserve to be caught," he remarks during a riff about natural selection. "They're lazy - 2 million years of evolution and they still haven't got out of the water." (Evolution, he believes, was simply Darwin's attempt to justify his unnaturally hairy back.) And during a rant about foreigners, he observes: "The Norwegians have no word for 'honest' - or so they claim."

Public decency means that much of the show is, sadly, unrecordable, the scatological climax being the singer's meditation on the c-word as the audience files out at the end. For all the cerebral one-liners, though, the bits that had this reviewer most helpless with laughter were more physical - a peerless Dylan parody ("Your beauty makes me spill my beeeer") and a lecture on religion delivered by his brilliant Michael Caine in a jacket covered in roses ("The message of Christ is simple enough: come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.")

As befits a man with two degrees (Latin at Oxford, chemistry at Cambridge), and who spent six months working in chemical warfare at Aldermaston, he is preoccupied with technology. The Glove of Power, which lets him manipulate the images on the screen, was a bit slow on the uptake (low batteries, apparently), and it was engaging to see Munnery's grimaces, his willingness to come out of character and let things go slightly awry.

Later, he used his "Sword of Dst:ny" (pronounced "dust'n' wee" - don't ask), two pieces of wood nailed together with two tiny cameras attached. He explored the sword's comic possibilities, apparently on the hoof. He turned it on the audience, examining the front row's shoes; he intercut his own image with South Park-style animation. It was a dizzy ride through the contents of Munnery's oversized brain.

In my favourite line of the night, he observed, "Many are prepared to suffer for their art. Few are prepared to learn to draw." Munnery has suffered, learnt to draw, had a pilot rejected by Channel 4 ...

More fool them. In these days of Big Train, League of Gentlemen, and Smack the Pony, there has to be a place for Simon Munnery. "What is TV?" he asks. "It is a communication device - like a telephone or a mallet." Make him the BBC's next director-general, I say.

Lyric Studio, W6 (0181 741 2311), to 19 June

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit