Andy Zaltzman: Armchair Revolutionary

No international leader is safe in this inspired performance


By Lee Levitt, August 11, 2011
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Andy Zaltzman

Andy Zaltzman

He's back, he's Jewish, and he's the only comedian with a sausage-hating Jewish dog, who used to bark whenever Yasser Arafat came on the TV. "His barkmitzvah still brings a tear to the eye," quips Zaltzman, in a six-minute off-stage warm-up before he appears in a lurid scarlet and black shirt and non-matching cords, with an arrow through his head.

The 36-year-old gagmeister from Streatham - "blood type: lapsed Jew" - then proceeds apace in a pun-laden, simile-rich manner at a rate of about four jokes per minute in the ego-deflating direction of politicians, tackling en route capitalism, the Arab Spring, terrorism, phone-hacking, Dubai and longevity, to name just a few of his targets. Or that was the plan. The recently erupted riots also had to be incorporated into his act. "As a comedian, it's depressing - you have to change it. These people don't think about that," he jests.

Zaltzman, who chuckles engagingly every so often at the wildly imaginative ferment going on in his brain, is in full control of his material and not one to be blown off course by the odd British riot or ten. As proof of his competence, his set includes a framed certificate from the British Institute of Satirists and Lampooners, which shows he passed "adequately" and to which he periodically points.

Turning the international order on its head, he envisages the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, calling for calm on the streets of London and Libya's embattled despot Muammar Gaddafi suggesting David Cameron gives up power but is allowed to remain in the country.

No international leader is safe. Of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said that multiculturalism had failed, he notes wryly: "She forgot to say that monoculturalism didn't work too well either."

The selfishness which endorses child labour - he's not a fan, but does like a bargain - and a cynical political order which saw the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber on health grounds two years ago - "he could at least have faked his own death out of politeness", suggests Zaltzman - are picked over mercilessly.

Adding an extra dimension to the slick gagfest are a 1930s radio, for off-the-wall newsflashes (including a Second World War-style pensions timebomb announcement) and a retro 1930s-style telephone (so that NHS Direct can diagnose the pain in his head).

The solution to the world's problems at which the co-star of The Bugle podcast arrives is a reassessment of our values as a species and a nation, signing online petitions - "no cuts, some cuts, some cuts but only of things other people use" - and puns. Lots and lots of puns. An inspired performance.

The Stand Comedy Club, until Aug 28, not Aug 15

    Last updated: 8:33am, August 11 2011