mon 19/04/2021

Punt & Dennis, Touring | reviews, news & interviews

Punt & Dennis, Touring

Punt & Dennis, Touring

Plenty of funnies, but blather and repetition from the double act, too

Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis originally came to fame in the late 1980s as one half of the satirical sketch group The Mary Whitehouse Experience, with fellow Cambridge alumni David Baddiel and Rob Newman. Now, though, most people know them (as a double act, at least) as the lead performers in The Now Show on Radio 4.

You may also know Dennis as an actor in Outnumbered on BBC One, and as one of the regulars on BBC Two’s Mock the Week, where Punt also works behind the scenes (those ad libs don’t write themselves, you know), and Dennis is now also the frontman of BBC Two’s new improv show, Fast and Loose. All in all, a very decent CV for any double act - so why isn’t their live show, They Should Get Out More, their first in three years, funnier than it is?

It’s not that they are, as one critic memorably (and unfairly) described them, “a double act with two straight men”, nor indeed that they can’t write the funnies. They can and do. It’s just that the dynamic between them - Punt does the set-ups and Dennis delivers the punchlines - works very well on radio (The Now Show has its moments, particularly when the participants’ anger at politicians rears its head), but doesn’t translate terribly well to two hours in a theatre, where Punt talks at length while Dennis provides the vocal, visual and physical punctuation. Punt, although a fine writer, is hardly an exhilarating performer and his monotonous delivery is quite soporific, while Dennis, a talented actor and impressionist, can’t resist repeating a funny line or gurning at the audience. And his raptor impression, while impressive, really doesn’t need to be done more than once.

That’s not to say there isn’t much to enjoy about this show, and the audience at Watford Palace Theatre, where I saw it, were clearly having a great time. The material ranges from exotic crisps flavours and how to find the perfect marital partner to the daft answers people give on opinion polls. Some subjects, such as teenage crime, are given a nicely surreal twist: what would happen if middle-class kids went on the rampage in a Lakeland store - “Look out Toby, he’s got a meat thermometer!” But the biggest laughs are for Punt and Dennis’s crafty digs at the Government - “We haven’t toured in three years. But then we thought the country is being led by a double act and we couldn’t be less popular than them.”

In the second half the pair do a few sketches and the pace picks up as they bounce off each other in skits about the Olympics and a wine programme in which Dennis (playing a very good drunk) is an inebriated host utterly confused by New Zealand appearing at two ends of a wall atlas. But it’s a shame that this show doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

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