Punt & Dennis, Warwick Arts Centre, Warwick
Wednesday 12 January 2005
When I mentioned to friends that I was going to see Punt & Dennis, I got something of a ribbing about it. One joked that she had renamed
It's Been a Bad Week, the duo's Radio 2 show,
It's Occasionally Funny.
When I mentioned to friends that I was going to see Punt & Dennis, I got something of a ribbing about it. One joked that she had renamed It's Been a Bad Week, the duo's Radio 2 show, It's Occasionally Funny. For those who regarded The Mary Whitehouse Experience, their celebrated springboard, as a seminal comedy show, such reactions are not uncommon. For my friend and many of her peers, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis were always second to their partners Rob Newman and David Baddiel. First impressions have endured, and if The Mary Whitehouse Experience was a tea shop, Punt & Dennis have been minding it for the past 12 years while their contemporaries went out to drink cappuccino with a funkier comedy clientele.
An accusation of stasis might sound something of a paradox for an act famed for up-to-the minute parodies of world affairs, but while the stimulus might have changed, their style has remained consistent, reliable and accessible. But the title of "the kings of satirical comedy" - as awarded to the duo by Steve Lamacq and paraded on their tour posters - is a trifle grand and a little hopeful for what is on offer here: two hours of harmless musing on what might irritate or confuse suburbanites, such as speed cameras, online shopping deliveries fouling up once again and the failure of technology to provide good service.
It's hardly biting social and political comment, as the pair seem to concede. When a gag ventures nearer this target, Hugh Dennis puts a thumb and finger next to each other and says "that was this close to satire ladies and gentlemen". Often, truth is never far behind self-deprecation, and so it is here. Mind you, don't underestimate the power of petty annoyances; Dennis receives an ovation for his rant against the Microsoft paperclip icon.
While the content of the show steers a steady course, the chemistry between Punt & Dennis is askew. It is best described by Punt himself in an interview with The Independent on Sunday last week. "When we started off I was basically a writer and Hugh was a performer... I'm now a writer who performs and Hugh's a performer who writes." This "opposition" is clear on stage with Punt slouching behind his microphone stand and rather less obvious than the precise Dennis, with his imposing build, ability to mime and mimic. It's a tension that doesn't matter, of course, when it comes to their radio shows, It's Been A Bad Week or Radio 4's The Now Show, but here it looks a little uneven.
Tonight's Warwick date is an early one in their month-long, 23-show tour (their first for nine years), and things will certainly warm up. Overall, however, there is a disappointing lack of irreverence in the proceedings save for some cheek, quite literally, in a nice joke about Egyptian gods picture-messaging their posteriors. Audiences of all ages like their comedy to be juvenile and delinquent occasionally - an expectation that Punt & Dennis, always regarded as old heads on younger shoulders, can't quite meet.
Touring to 7 February ( www.rbmcomedy.com)
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