As a perennial fan of Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt’s inputs on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Now Show, the prospect of seeing them live on stage promised to be a treat – and it didn’t disappoint. Indeed, sat in the majestic setting of the York Grand Opera House, at times it felt like I was at a recording of the radio show with Punt producing his usual masterful set ups for Dennis to later pick up and run with. And run he did, with topics ranging from the TV listings experience to our obsession with the snow the show touched upon every possible avenue.
One thing that did come across, lost to a radio audience, was Dennis’ mastery of visual comedy. A particular favourite being his take on the giving out of buns in Denmark to celebrate the signing of the treaty of Rome. That was the first and probably the last time I will see a man old enough to be my father walk in circles around a stage with the flap of jacket lifted up showing the audience his “beautiful buns”. Punt’s earlier cynical comment really summed this up well; the pair are indeed “wasted on the radio”.
Apart from this, there was a lot to satisfy the viewer – the level of satire was perfect with the usual nods that one can expect from the pair towards current events such as the recent flooding. As well as a good handful of self-depreciation – particularly in reference to their less-than-impressive PowerPoint style set and Hugh’s adventurous use of props “ yet another example, ladies and gentlemen, of why Hugh Dennis should not be given props”.
It’s nice to see that, in a world where comedians are becoming increasingly opinionated and risqué, Punt and Dennis have not ditched their comedic style to become more edgy, a style that certainly would not have suited them.
However, having said this, being a fan of their radio programme proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword at times with the eager fan such as myself being able to spot that some of the jokes had already been told by the pair on the Now Show. With this being their major output, it was not unsurprising if a little unsatisfying when I found myself being able to complete the joke before the comedians did. That said, Punt and Dennis had handpicked some of the best jokes from their past series for the tour.
The final sketch a parody of the numerous wine and food shows that seem to be a regular feature of popular culture at the moment. It seems that they may have left the best until last with the return of Dennis’ masterful drunk man “you poured wine on a fish?!?” and Punt’s restrained but amusing presenter.
All in all the night proved to be a hit with the audience as it did with myself. Proving once more that Punt and Dennis are still some of the finest comedians on the British scene. Here’s hoping that it won’t be three more years until they return to what Punt deemed is the “subversive centre” of York.