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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week