Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
Paul Foot is an odd-looking man with perhaps an even odder brain. This may fit the description of the vast majority of male stand-up comedians but Foot seems to take the crown of being the eccentric’s eccentric. With only rare television or radio appearances, mainly on Channel Four panel shows, Foot has been on the circuit for about twenty years but is mainly a live act with a loyal following of ‘connoisseurs’, as oppose to fans.
Image Conscious, Foot’s new hour-long show, tours into the Spring of 2019 and is early in the run at The Lowry. With his long mullet and seemingly home sheared short fringe Foot would not look out of place on the cover of a 1970s glam-rock band. His strange stage presence is a good indicator of the strangeness of his act. Occasionally strutting around the stage akin to Mick Jagger, for the main Foot’s physicality and vocal is not too dissimilar to Zippy from children’s TV favourite Rainbow. Added to this, Foot rocks back and forth, mullet hair whizzing by, as his flights of fancy take his brain off to a new strange and surreal street.
Paul Foot’s comedy has always been set in the absurd and the surreal. He flies off down different avenues, conjuring scenes, situations and characters that shouldn’t really belong together but end up doing so. For the most part this is Foot’s trajectory in Image Conscious. But for the first twenty minutes or so he meanders down the path of observational comedy, something not particularly comfortable for a comedian of his kind. He touches on The Royal Family, Masterchef and pretentious restaurant menus. The ridiculousness of crusty rolls, artisan bread and soft-shell crabs are topics of comedy for many hundreds of comedians but don’t seem to sit well in Paul Foot world. It is a relief when one audience member leaves to relieve himself and Foot can go off-script for a few minutes to enjoy the usual comic/audience banter of someone going to the toilet mid-set.
Foot’s does also take us into a strange and surreal comedy labyrinth. His show seems to take a preoccupation with the planning of what he classes a ‘suburban orgy’ and how this would involve the stars of the 1980s/90s snooker world. Nostalgic references to Steve Davies and Peter Ebdon may generate laughs, especially juxtaposed with the imagery Foot provides for us, but the whole scenario never really makes the journey from being absurd to absurdly funny.
Like a radio that is being constantly tuned or a Rubik’s cube being forever turned, Paul Foot is most definitely a comedian for those with an acquired taste. Perhaps his word ‘connoisseur’ is a perfect way to describe his fans after all. Image Conscious is a new show that, as it tours, may make the leap to surreal hilarity but at the moment is not funny enough.