Paul Dennis's Inappropriate Bits

Thu 16th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Charlie Brookhouse

at 23:02 on 21st Aug 2012

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Paul Dennis introduces this vibrant stand-up performance by making an argument for colourful language. "There’s a need for swearing…we should swear more in the world. The people who worry about syntax and grammar" he continues, "they need to f**k off". Dennis, however, is not inarticulate. As opposed to conveying extreme meanings, swear words are committed to evoking extreme feelings and it’s with these that Dennis is concerned: he derives his humour from descriptions of his descent into alcoholism following a move back to Britain after his marriage fell apart.

Why, Dennis wonders, did he return from New York to Wales to find everyone asking him about whether he was there for 9/11 - "It’s not a festival". Dennis then recalls how on that day in New York it was a phone call all the way from Australia that directed his attention to the breaking news on TV. The unreality of a world predominantly accessed through sensationalising media outlets is comically absurd. It forces a disequilibrium between attention and emphasis. Think of clipped miniaturised images recycled on the 9 o’clock news of the twin-towers. This separative force of the media is echoed in a different vignette in which Dennis describes a drunken out-of-body experience. He watches on as his fingers fumble with keys in a lock. When police confront him, he becomes officious, more broadly in the spirit of his new hometown Basingstoke – the local council advertises the fact it has up to 327 roundabouts.

Dennis’s performance does go round in circles but it’s an upward spiral. Extreme self-deprecating humour in an age favouring extroversion runs the risk of seeming self-pitying. Fortunately, in this stand up routine, a lack of confidence does not always mean a lack of competence. Dennis demystifies sex by considering its more scatological aspects. The reproductive instinct is something both irritatingly necessary and necessarily irritating. For some, what matters is a beautiful face, for others, well, to go there would be below the belt: a candid conclusion of Dennis’ is that BJs suck.

'Unfortunate Bits' is rounded off with two musical numbers. The first is about necrophilia. In this performance, the verses seemed to pass from Dennis’s mind and we were left with his strumming the bare chord structure of 'I Will Survive'. Dennis appropriately engaged the audience until he could recall his lyrics. It was a testament to his perseverance with material that is often horribly funny and frightfully sad.

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Lise McNally

at 03:22 on 22nd Aug 2012

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Squashed up inside a small room that looks alarmingly like a stationary cupboard, and deliberately dressing to place himself firmly on “the scruffy side of the fashion spectrum”, Paul Dennis’ ‘Inappropriate Bits’ might not be the most aesthetically pleasing production to be found on the free Fringe, but it is probably one of the most hilarious.

Quickly ingratiating himself with the audience through his use of self-deprecating charm, Paul Dennis is a born storyteller. Fusing fresh observation humour with a biographical narrative, he ranges easily from innovative suggestions as to why there are so many roundabouts in Basingstoke, to a quick summation of how to effectively deal with the police when pissed. Although occasionally relying on “an easy laugh”, what truly separates Dennis from the crowd is his sparkling vocal abilities: a swift but clear speaker, Dennis never allows the punchlines of his tales to escape, deploying a masterful sense of comic timing without allowing it to break the even flow of his conversational tone. His articulate and witty turn of phrase displays signs of the Welshman in him, able to reach a pitch of melodramatic power which was near-Shakespearean, but also able to deploy the understated impact of a simply well-told tale.

The end of his set also introduces a musical element, with a re-written pop song taking the star turn. Hilarious yet cool when he messed up his chords, this really ended the show on a high. Although the lyrics could be gross beyond belief at times, the audience certainly seemed to get their share of laughs from it, albeit guiltily. But this stand up set is not, and does not pretend to be, humour to suit everyone; the title “inappropriate” is not deployed for nothing. As a man who includes a manifesto defending the necessity of swear words in his set (and very convincing it is too!) expect with Paul Dennis a language littered with expletives, and blue as royal blood. Sex, disease, and alcoholism all take their turn in his comic dance, as well as potentially inflammatory references to 9/11 or vaginal reconstruction.

That said, for all the “inappropriate bits” to be found in Dennis’ set, you never get the sense that any of his material is used solely for its controversiality, for the sake of getting a rise out of people alone. Indeed, there is little that is really offensive or politically incorrect in the set, and its focus is primarily personal. Leave primness at home and go prepared to embrace an hour of incessant TMI. There is true comedy gold behind the gruesomeness.

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