“Every show needs a structure” says Simon Munnery. He’s pointing at the flimsy, six foot high cardboard arch standing beside him. The audience laughs. Already well into the eighty-odd minutes of the act, it’s the only thing approaching a discernible structure we’ve seen so far. By his own admission, the show is “an extravagant mess”. It’s also rather brilliant, complex and downright funny.
Early on, the show’s title Hats Off For The 101ers… is dealt with and dismissed. A ‘one man punk musical,’ it’s a remarkably detailed account of the ill fated R100/101 airships of the 1930s, hammered out on a cheap Strat and a loop pedal. He does all this whilst wearing a gaffer tape hat that blows bubbles into the air. It’s discarded soon after, after a half serious gag about it being “a metaphor for the capitalist system.”
The pace of the set is fast by anyone’s standards. Munnery makes the transition from a puppet show set on the Calvary crosses straight into a monologue from a reptilian Women’s Studies lecturer with ease. You’d struggle to pinpoint a common theme at all in this show. What is apparent is an utter love of wordplay, and an a sense of inventiveness that manages not to tip into self indulgence.
A critical analysis of the songs of Bruce Springsteen sees the audience prompted to sing along to ‘Born to Run’ (“This is how Gareth Malone started…”), while a routine called ‘If London could speak’ sees the looper pedal put to good use. On paper, it’s little more than a din of goofy accents. In practice, it’s actually rather funny.
You’d expect a routine about the Daily Mail and its readership to seem a little uninspired these days. But Munnery’s account of buying up every copy from his local shop, only to realise the futility of the exercise (leaving potential buyers “misinformed and angry” regardless) doesn’t outstay its welcome.
And the venue itself? In recent years, Chapter has proved itself a natural home for a broad range of comics. One thing that’s really put it on the map is the existence of Go Faster Stripe, the production company based at the site. It’s made a name for itself filming and releasing DVDs of a host of standups, from Munnery himself to Stewart Lee, Tony Law and others.
It’s no surprise to see a comic selling merchandise after a gig, and Munnery’s no exception. It is however less common to watch someone plug their DVD and book, and then proceed to read aloud from the book “to save people the trouble of buying it”. A rapid series of one liners, it’s an intriguing way to end of the show. No characters, no props. It acts as a reminder that you’re watching one of Britain’s most gifted standups on fine form.