Simon Munnery’s show, Self Employed, is a revealing journey into the mind of one of British comedy’s unsung talents. Personally, I hadn’t seen Munnery live for donkeys’ years, and don’t really remember much enjoying his Alan Parker, Urban Warrior shtick way back when. So I was bowled over by the sweetness of his act proper; cute observations, silly songs, snappy comic timing, gentle leftie humour and a bit of the proud dad talk about his kids. On one hand there’s a sharp, comic mind at work with intelligent wordplay and some brilliant one-liners; on the other a surprising amount of squishy, personal geek stuff.
He has a pop at John Lennon, breaking down the lyrics to Imagine, arguing them nonsensical; fortunately, he was among a decent audience that didn’t have any inclination to give him a hard time over it (you must know you’re in a safe place when the crowd laughs at your joke about threatening to stop reading the Guardian). His chat with ‘Richard Dawkins’ is a riot, and he did us a favour in this pitbull-ridden city by passing on a great ‘untested wisdom’ about how to kill a dog that’s attacking, that was so simply on the money it’d be a sure thing it would stick with everyone who was there whenever they see an unfriendly canine for a very long time.
Munnery ends the show utilising a number of curious props that had been hanging around, unused, for the whole entire show. His monologue sketch set in “La Concepta, the conceptual restaurant”, serving up non-food to bashful audience members was a curiosity at first but incredibly funny once the audience warmed to the rogue idea. It was a notably different piece of comic writing than what had come before. ‘Absence of mango’ and ‘Belgium on a plate’ were just two of the treats on the menu, as Munnery became ac-tor, hamming it up with a cardboard tie and moustache comprising a pencil tied under his nose (having read other reviews from different cities, it seems he is wont to plonk this sketch at various points in the show depending on where you catch it. Wonder what that willingness to mess around with the order of things says about how he operates).
With maturity comes the parallels that can be drawn with the curmudgeonly, poetic wit of John Hegley and the variety of Arthur Smith as much as the alternative cool of the Stewart Lee-type stable he came up with. His delivery, peppered with Lee-esque deconstruction of the gags, and his combination of little silly songs, mean at 44 he occupies that evolving middle ground between new and old (alternative) school. It’s a good place to be and the resulting act is rather irresistible.