How do you sum up a comedian whose act is to appear not to have one? It’s no easy task, but nonetheless this article will attempt to do so in reviewing Norman Lovett’s ‘Outside The Box’; the latest DVD from indie comedy label Go Faster Stripe. First of all though, a disclaimer. It’s fairly well documented that Norman and myself have had something of a fractured relationship, and we’ve both talked about it since to the point where it has become something of a joke. However, whatever disagreements we have had, I have always found him to be a stand up of repute.
Norman has long been held as one of the most influential alternative comedians. And by alternative comedians, I mean proper alternative comedians; the type whose acts are left field and generally largely removed from what makes the successful transfer to television. After all, how many program commissioners would see the likes of Michael Redmond’s shambling onstage character standing silently on stage and sign them up?
Norman’s act is very much in this vein, and one that is dryer than the Sahara in tone. His rambling approach is one that has been imitated many times, especially by the likes of Stewart Lee who openly admits his influence. It’s all too evident here, with Norman’s producing of apparently random items echoing the sort of thing Lee was seen doing with a ballet shoe in Comedy Vehicle. It’s a performance that, like the best alternative comedians, finds its comedy in an onstage persona.
This said of course, there are some great asides and put downs sprinkled throughout which keep things moving along nicely. It’s the false appearance of being without an act though that creates a charm about Norman’s act. If anything, advancing age has fitted the whimsical nature of his act very well, giving him an air of someone aggravated by much of life, but also finding pleasures in the smallest of things from a plastic bag to a collection of photos of news readers. This often leads to him apparently straying from his act at points either to enthuse or to despair about a subject, which is often something surprising such as an annoyance with the ‘fake Sugarbabes’, in a manner that will no doubt be familiar to anyone that has seen Simon Munnery get distracted by talking about Woody Allen.
Overall, it’s a show that shouldn’t work, and should be as the back of the DVD says ‘just a man taking things out of a bag’. And yet it works perfectly, keeping the audience’s attention and gaining the laughs despite an apparent absence of jokes, structure, or indeed an act. Of course, this is but a facade masking a clever show that is a merit to the Go Faster Stripe label that Norman will hopefully collaborate with again.
2 extras for this release. The first of which is the standard Go Faster Stripe photo gallery, but the main draw here in the Q&A session with Norman and Arnold Brown. It’s fascinating to listen to the two of them discuss their careers, their views on the state of comedy and Norman’s enduring love for the works of Lady GaGa. It’s always interesting with comedians of this nature, to hear them talk on these types of topics as it provides an insight into their comedy in a way that Stewart Lee has found to be successful with his recent books dissecting his past shows.
If I had a criticism, it would be that I would like to have heard a bit more from Arnold as he takes a bit more of a back seat compared to Norman in the discussion. That’s really something of a personal gripe though in as much as there isn’t enough of Arnold’s that readily available. It’s therefore great news that Go Faster Stripe’s next release is to be of Arnold’s set from the same night, and it is sure to be a must have release for any self-respecting comedy fan.
- Main Feature – 69 Minutes
- Extras – 44 Minutes
‘Outside The Box’ is available from Go Faster Stripe for £12. Clips from the DVD and more information available on the site.