Edinburgh Fringe 2014
“Only two human activities happen in front of a brick wall. Standing at a mic telling jokes or being shot by firing squad. After a twenty year pause from stand-up, Andy de la Tour went to New York to rediscover his comedy roots. This is the story of what happened. Andy was last in Edinburgh 30 years ago with Rik Mayall and Ben Elton. Now he’s back, older but not much wiser.”
Andy de la Tour is a founding father of stand-up. Although you aren’t going to see his likeness carved into a mountain anytime soon, he is fixed in the memory of every devotee of alternative comedy. He featured in that classic Young Ones vignette parodying the dire solemnity of late ‘70s road safety films. “Think once…think twice…think don’t drive you car on the pavement” he intones, having just illustrated the point by knocking seven bells out of an assortment of soft and squidgy items, using a cricket bat with a breeze block nailed to it.
His colleague and collaborator, Ben Elton wrote the piece, but the perfect timing and self-mocking physicality are de la Tour’s alone. After an absence from the Fringe of over three decades, de la Tour has returned from exile to find his principality changed, almost beyond recognition. Where does he fit in?
When navigating the crowds thronging Gilded Balloon you might be forgiven for imagining we’re here to experience stand-up’s equivalent of Jurassic Park, a fossilized fogie straight out of prehistory. Not a bit of it. Certainly, watching de la Tour in action provides a glimpse at the bedrock of the artform, he’s forgotten more than most comics will ever learn. But he’s been in training, and he’s on top of his game.
His material has been collected during recent botanising trips to observe the flora and fauna of New York’s stand-up circuit. De la Tour had been out of the game so long that even his partner (actress/novelist Susie Wooldrige) never saw him before a brick wall, behind a mic. A brilliant observationalist, with a gifted conversationalist’s personability, his set might be the love child of Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher.
Your pizza won’t be free with de la Tour’s delivery. It’s rapid, fresh, sizzling with angst and garnished with a folksy, disarming charm. The rate of his words per minute alters not at all. If anyone’s going to talk the hind legs of a donkey it’ll be him. The variance comes in the pacing of each story and theme. Staccato monologues inditing the lamentable loonacy of the teabaggers are balanced by Jerome K. Jerome-style lyricisms on small dogs and the big people who love them.
De la Tour’s stand-up pedigree is worthy of Crufts and Westminster. He poised, elegant, contemporary and above all characterful. If the inhabitants of Jurassic Park had been this approachable, there’s no way Newman would have wound up getting eaten. De la Tour isn’t old news, he’s the good news that UK stand-up can still be saved from the commercial churn of buttery inconsequence.
Like a well-rested bottle of Guigal Cote Rotie, this superb 80s vintage has come into it’s own.