In musical comedy, there are two fine lines that one must be careful not to cross when it comes to singing. One mustn’t be too good a singer, lest their vocal prowess be too distracting, but they need to be good enough for their parodies of popular songs to be recognisable.
By this definition, Adam Kay certainly fits the bill of musical comedian. Armed with his witty brand of whimsical wordplay with playful parodies about topics ranging from being on the prowl for Iranian men (It’s Raining Men) to cautioning the audience to ‘always take out the spoon otherwise it will poke your face’ (sang to the tune of the chorus in Poker Face). A particular favourite was the Christmas parody No ‘L’ about buying a computer and realising that the ‘L’ key was missing with the immortal punch line the sharp audience was able to guess – “That’s the last time I buy a computer from Del.”
But what was pleasantly surprising were Kay’s hilarious transitions between songs that ensured that the audience was in stitches from lack of a laughter-break. Perhaps the most intelligent of these was the guessing game he played with the audience, sang to the tune of Hallelujah, where he would give verbal clues in the verses and then have the audience sing the answer to the tune of the chorus. Nothing quite like seeing the middle-class, middle-aged residents of York changing “Henry Hoover”, “Ferris Bueller” and, the best, “Halitosis, halitosis, halitosis, halito-o-o-o-sis” to a tune they might otherwise only sing on Sundays.
Combined with his self-deprecating humour with anecdotes of spending the morning in the Waterstones in York signing books “until security caught me” and risqué pop-culture references (“Nobody knows more about going viral than Freddie Mercury” drawing ‘ooh’s from the audience), Kay’s quick wit is certainly lost when only watching his songs on YouTube.
No stranger to current affairs, Kay fluidly deals with big names in the media, past and present, with the tale of paralympian Oscar Pistorious in a Bohemian Rhapsody parody, replacing iconic lyrics like “Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me/ To me” with “But they put springs on his stumps/ Now he’s the world’s fastest amputee/ Amputee” and the crowd favourite – “Oscar just killed a girl.” He also brings us back to the Louise Woodward trial of killing an infant with the catchy and side-splittingly funny chorus “Did she/ Shake-a, shake-a, shake-a baby?”
With songs like Guy off of Grinder (Eye of the Tiger), Gordon Brown Eyed Girl (Brown Eyed Girl) and even a parody of the John Lewis Christmas advert (“Look at that cute beaver/ Don’t forget your visa”), Kay managed to showcase a more sophisticated side of his humour while still maintaining his masterful wordplay.
Despite choosing to end off the night with his ironic song, London Underground, which only a few poncey southerners could appreciate and its humour being slightly lost amongst the locals, Adam Kay remains one of the few people with the enormous talent of making even taboo subjects like paedophilia with his Heaven parody (“Baby you’re all that I want… You’re eleven”) even remotely palatable and even (admittedly) pretty deserving of a chuckle.