sat 18/05/2024

Andy Zaltzman, Soho Theatre review - satire on the hoof | reviews, news & interviews

Andy Zaltzman, Soho Theatre review - satire on the hoof

Andy Zaltzman, Soho Theatre review - satire on the hoof

Setting the world to rights, one joke at a time

Andy Zaltzman wants to solve the world's problems with satire

Andy Zaltzman comes on stage to deliver a short preamble to his show Satirist For Hire. Much of the hour is suggested by the audience as they choose subjects they want him to muse on. Some have emailed before they arrive, others have left it till they arrive at the theatre; one shouts out a suggestion from the bar.

Zaltzman leaves the stage for a few minutes to write some notes and then returns for the show proper.

The performance is purportedly about the comic being on a mission to try to solve the world's problems with satire. But Zaltzman won't over-promise – after all, he says, the greatest satirist of all, Jonathan Swift, failed at the task. “You still can't get a cooked baby in any UK restaurant.”

The breadth of Zaltzman's repertoire is astonishing – gags on Jacinda Ardern, mosquitoes, the Queen, Boris Johnson, folding bicycles, the Magna Carta and climate change, to mention just a few of the subjects covered on the night I saw the show. But then the host of BBC Radio 4's New Quiz and The Bugle podcast has a lot of practice writing jokes about current affairs, many of them convoluted analogies or dreadful puns (both in evidence here).

Some jokes can be repurposed and clearly not all are made up on the night, although the ones that are pass muster. One punter wants him to satirise the A47. “About time someone took that fucker down,” comes the riposte.

Zaltzman threads it all together with asides that seemingly enter his head as he's speaking. A question about Ukraine leads into a surreal riff about Russian literature, while a question on the implication of the local election results in Northern Ireland prompts some thoughts on David Cameron and Scottish independence, and home working heads in the unexpected direction of discussing Manchester United's season. His comedy reach is certainly broad.

There's the odd stutter as the comic moves from one subject to another, but he's such an amiable presence on stage that any dead moments are easily forgotten. He doesn't pretend to know the answers, but shows that we can have fun while examining the things that ail us. And Zaltzman, the Test Match Special statistician, offers the balm of five-day cricket – where nothing much happens – as the perfect antidote to a world where too much is happening, too much of the time.

Has Zaltzman solved the world problems by the end of the show? No, but he has provided a laugh-packed hour.

Not all jokes are made up on the night, although the ones that are pass muster


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters