Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
You can be sure of one thing with a Rob Newman gig… there won’t be any jokes about dicks. Newman takes an intellectual approach and tonight he is concerned about another organ of the body: the brain. In appearance he resembles the clichéd absent-minded professor with waistcoat, bowtie and checked pants; the only thing missing is the leather elbow patches.
The Brain Show merges factually based material with the clearly fictional. But Newman takes the same approach to both types. There is no discernable difference between his fictional routine on how he directed a production of Hamletwith the mixed metaphors removed from the soliloquy and his descriptions of factual medical experiments. All of the material is delivered in a dry understated manner, leading to a conclusion that is often absurd and very funny. The routines are stuffed with multi-syllable words and jargon that would send you scurrying for a dictionary but Newman’s almost surreal approach punctures, rather than promotes, pretension.
Although the humour is almost exclusively verbal each act concludes with a visual punchline. Newman employs a DIY encephalograph to reveal a guilty secret and a pair of twinkling squids to end on a musical note. The first act is the more focused with a series of monologues on brain-related material, loosely built around Newman’s courtship of a neurosurgeon. Newman is perturbed that his participation in a brain mapping experiment generated a negative result, suggesting a lack of empathy but is unable to discuss his concerns, as he has no friends.
The Brain concept is retained even when the jokes are directed at more obvious comedy targets. Newman neatly manages to use the technical jargon in his criticism of modern celebrities – explaining Paul Weller’s worldview as an example of narcissism. He is not so high-minded as to leave out an obvious gag observing that mind mapping with Americans costs less as it doesn’t take as long.
Newman does not stick dogmatically to his theme and is willing to spin off at tangents in pursuit of a decent gag. One of the better routines involves cartoon characters describing their symptoms to the NHS helpline and the advice given in response.
The second act is more general in nature and, it has to be acknowledged, features a couple of routines that were used in his last tour. A pity as this rather takes the sheen off a polished and very funny first act
Reviewed on 30October 2015 | Image: Contributed