Wednesday, December 8

Fincho reviews Rob Newman
We went to see top comedian Robert Newman at the Mac. El Fincherino wrote a review. Nice knowledge of Nicaraguan politics there young Finch - well done.

Rob Newman @ Midlands Arts Centre

Rob Newman is both highly political and highly amusing. He is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-war. His brand of comedy is certainly not for those without a good grasp of world history and politics.

Formerly a member of The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Newman then formed a double act with David Baddiel. Whereas Baddiel then took a more laddish direction, Newman embraced political comedy in the vein of Mark Thomas.

Arctic scenery

He comes onto the stage dressed in a dark suit and bowler hat and makes a few cracks about the arctic scenery on the stage which is in place ready for the MAC’s ‘Snow Queen’ production.

Newman commences the first half by talking about his American tour and the amount of phone-in radio shows he listened to whilst travelling the States. He highlights one particular show in which an American woman rang in complaining about a Vietnamese family who have moved in next to them. She apparently said something along the lines of “How would they like it if a load of Americans went over there?” Both Newman and the audience can’t believe the irony of this statement.

Things then take a turn for the historical as Newman proceeds to talk about The Virginia Company and imagines what the people on the boat sailing over to Virginia must have been like. He pretends that John Lydon was one of the members aboard, mocking reality TV as he does so, and John’s new career as a presenter of wildlife programmes. Newman, as a self professed ex-punk seems to be highly cynical about Lydon’s new found success on the back of ‘I’m a Celebrity’.

However, Lydon is not the only figure in popular music that Newman accuses of selling out. He plays his banjo and sings a song in the style of Bob Dylan with scathing lyrics about Dylan’s gigs for multi-national companies, where he plays all the hits – something he never seems to do on his tours. Newman’s spin on this is to get the audience to imagine Dylan singing about the people in the company, for example about the comedy tie of an employee in accounts.

Political comedy

Newman emerges on to the stage for the second half, wearing a T-Shirt with the words ‘George Bush and Son Family Butchers’ written on it. He proudly shows this off to the audience. This leads to more political comedy and covers many of the subjects, such as Globalisation, that he examined in his most recent novel ‘The Fountain at the Centre of the World’.

Newman’s skill lies in his ability to mix serious political points with popular culture and the surreal. Like his comparison of the actions advocated in the 1985 Freedom Fighters Manual, given out to Nicaraguan Contras by the American Government, to an episode of Top Cat.

There are points such as leaving the lights on, putting nails in the road and being late for work, which gets a big laugh from the audience – even more so when he stresses the point that this is a real document was used by the Reagan administration to try and unseat the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Gig or history lecture?

At times you could be forgiven for thinking you've just walked into a history lecture rather than a comedy show. However Newman's political diatribes and historical ramblings are always worth listening to, as like BBC4's Mark Steel Lectures, they are laced with humour and pack a punchline that's usually worth waiting for.

The evening’s events are concluded with more songs, one about ‘The Last Rasta in Notting Hill’ and rather bizarrely, another about the queen not looking after her swans. Both are extremely witty.

He does a brief encore about his sinister old landlord and concludes with a piece about the two leaders of the Chinese government, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, leading to a comical misunderstanding between the two Ronnies.

Newman’s show seemed to be greatly enjoyed and his political views were well received by the audience. Although his humour is dark and satirical it is also fiercely funny, and a good time was had by all.