Andy Zaltzman: Plan Z

Feb 10: Georgian Threatre Royal, Richmond

Any review of this show just has to start with the venue. The Georgian Theatre is an amazing little place. A beautiful stone building, just a quick walk from the marketplace, down Friars Wynd, and a lovely cosy little interior. The staff are warm, welcoming and friendly, and the whole vibe is marvellous. I can’t recommend the place enough.

I’m sitting in the pit, which basically feels, as you can possibly see from the picture, very intimate. What you can’t see is that the surroundings make you feel like you’re sitting inisde an antique doll’s house. My seat is, quite literally, a pew. Just like the benches in a church, with the same kind of cushions (these are green, incidentally). The interior panelling is a shade of duck-egg blue, with classical detailing (as one would expect from a place of this vintage). The performer is very close up; for stand-up, which is about as good as it gets for the audience. The boxes at stage level are so close that you can almost touch the people sitting in them.

In fact, these are the first things Andy Zaltzman comments on as he arrives, follwing his usual comical (and deliberate) long-winded self-introduction. He jokes, as he comes on, that he looks like he’s sold out. Until he looks up to the balcony seats, that is, but that’s ok, because he’d hurt his neck doing that.

If you know what kind of comedian Zaltzman is, you should know that this show is very much in his usual style. It’s wordy, with similes so intricately contrived that they’re as contrived as an very intricately contrived thing indeed. Unlike his last Satirist for Hire run, this is not about fielding audience questions, though he does solicit a couple near the end.

The focus is mostly about what a car crash 2016 was. This is a premise so self-evidently true that the opportunties are endless. Obviously then, the foci of the show are Brexit, and Trump. He’s a bit nervous doing this in Richmond, possibly one of the Toriest places in Britain, but given that the number of Leave voters in the audience numbers a totla of three, I don't think he’s on hostile ground.

He also does a wonderful line in self-deprecation. This is most apparent in the beautifully artful way he undercuts his own merch pitch just before the interval. Besides, I’ve already got his last DVD. And bugger, I’ve left it in the car, so he can’t sign it!

The one thing you do get with a Zaltzman show is a better qiuality of heckle. They’re certainly usually an intellectual cut above your average comedy gig. Tonight is no exception. One man at the front of the pit takes his chance to lauch into what is not so much a heckle, as an extended edition of Panorama about aircraft carriers and Harrier jets. Zaltman rides with it, in spite of our heckling friend being quite persistent. However, when he tries again, and drops a slighlty snider reference to “The Jews”, the ambience changes, and he’s closed down rather more quickly, much to the relief of the rest of us.

The material also relies on cued inserts from the laptop that sits on the stage, which is “wirelessly connected to the subtext analyser” perched on the stool on the other side tof the stage. To the uninitiated, it looks like a pineapple. with a wire stuck in it. Do not be fooled.

Let’s be honest here, Zaltzman is not going to be bothering the mainstream in the way Michael McIntyre or Peter Kay do (and that’s fine — I like them both too), but he’s great at what he does, as The Bugle amply demonstrates. Sometimes I think he works better firing with someone, which is perhaps why his shows work well with good intelligent heckles. And no pun runs tonight.

There’s no encore, as is increasingly common these days, though that time is spent out front talking to the punters. I manage to say hello and exchnge some pleasantries, before he signs a poster in lieu of the DVD I’ve forgotten. And, as one might expect, he’s a throuoghly personable and understatedly quiet chap. It’s a bonus when the people you think are taleneted also seem not to be shitheels either.

All that’s left is the drive home. A good night, all told.