Edinburgh Fringe Review: Mike Wozniak

mike wozniak

The Stand

*** 

The cross-fertilisation between old school and post-alternative comedy has gone on for ages, but it feels particularly prevalent in Edinburgh this year. I noticed it in Henry Paker last week and yesterday I noticed it in Mike Wozniak, who by coincidence, or maybe not by coincidence, did a show with Paker a few years ago.

Wozniak's schtick is to subvert the superficial trappings of classic pre-new wave stand-up. He has a purple sparkly curtain, a bow-tie and a frilly shirt. Even his moustache looks like it might be on the run from a 1970s episode of The Comedians. While he does his offbeat gags he keeps saying that "the show" is about to start, that he will get on with "the show" in a minute. Of course, "the show" never comes. This is the show.

In places Wozniak is extremely funny, which is quite a feat in a 12.10pm lunchtime slot when, as he pointed out, you are competing with the sound of the street cleaning van outside the window. His main subject is the stress of living with his parents. The twist is that Wozniak is no stay-at-home twentysomething, he is fortyish with a small family and for some reason his parents have moved back in.

This allows him to develop a number of riffs that sound like a sitcom in the making. He has taken to watching TV programmes that he doesn't even like so that his mother-in-law doesn't linger in the lounge. When he goes into the bathroom he notices that his razor has been moved and he suspects it has been used to shave hair that is not on his face.

There is something slightly off kilter about Wozniak's material though. It has the same knowing, deranged edge and snazzy rhythm as Harry Hill, but sometimes he goes a little too far in the name of postmodernism. At one point he talks about harbouring murderous thoughts – not that he'd like to murder his mother-in-law, just that it wouldn't be the end of the world if somebody else did. If Bernard Manning said this, lofty broadsheet critics would have been up in arms shouting "misogyny", but because it is somebody wearing an ironic bow-tie it is deemed OK. I'm sure, of course, that it is a joke, it just made me feel a little queasy (although in mitigation a fry-up just before the gig may not have helped). But John Thompson used to do a character called Bernard Right-On, who nailed the Manning generation more subversively without the risk of causing offence.

Elsewhere Wozniak tackles everything from training police horses for kettling to the issue of the sexualisation of children in high street advertising – the way he imagines a marketing meeting coming up with the idea is the stand-out routine in the show and has the sharpest satirical edge of the hour. Definitely more fun that the street cleaner outside – not that that is something worth sticking on your poster.

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