Paul Foot: Words Underbelly

The Sold Out sign was displayed the night I went to this show, always a welcome sign for performers and promoters at the Fringe. Paul Foot has gained quite a cult following over the past couple of years through his live shows, and has attracted a wider audience with his increasingly regular appearances on TV shows such as Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Check out his website or websyte as he calls it and you can sign up to join, not his fan club, but The Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs. I’ve been a “connoisseur” of Paul’s humour for a few years now and this show did not disappoint.

His idiosyncratic use of language is one of the hallmarks of his performance. He told us in advance what topics he would be covering in his show – these included a rant on the subject of toast, a treatise on similarly spelled words such as rockery and rookery, a series of insults addressed to the audience using incongruous words and phrases and, interspersed with all this, readings of some of his “observations” which he keeps in his briefcase. None of this sounds particularly funny in itself and, indeed, he himself tells us that we will find ourselves laughing without quite knowing why, but it is very funny and we do laugh a lot.

Not every member of the audience got every bit of the show. There were a couple of stony faces in the front row and others with “not quite sure what was happening” expressions. They cheered up more at the more conventional pieces of humour but didn’t quite get the more surreal elements. Those who did get it – or at least were on the same wavelength – laughed hysterically all the way through.

Just looking at him as he came on stage was enough for some, as he cuts such an unusual looking figure with his superskinny frame in his snazzy silver bomber jacket and kipper tie and mullet hairdo. He is a bundle of nervous energy and jumps around the stage, occasionally launching himself into the audience in his enthusiasm. No wonder some of the guys in the front row looked a bit nervous. However it is partly that edginess and feeling that you never quite know what will happen next that makes Paul Foot so memorable and makes you want to come back and see him again and again.

Irene Brownlee