Pappy’s Fun Club: NOF by Paul Savage

The author Ian Rankin, most famous for the Rebus novels, once snuck incognito into a university lecture about his debut novel The Flood. As he sat at the back he was surprised to find the lecturer espouse various themes that the author had put in there. He hadn’t, or at least hadn’t meant to.
Analysis is difficult, as proved this week to me by an old episode of CSI where there was a murder in a comedy club. And the main CSI-er Gil Grissom, opines that what people want to laugh at is farts because we are all caveman. At which point I threw things at the telly and went and did something productive with my time. Because it’s not just about farting, and you’d know that, fictional detective man, if you were half as cool as your ginger Miami based spin off.
In fact, it doesn’t need to be having farts in at all. It can be funny because it’s well scripted, or because it goes miles off script. Because it’s light hearted and fun for all the family or because it’s dark and a little bit twisted. Because it’s got music and costumes and voiceovers or because it’s got the jokes to back it up and make sure that you’re not just distracted by the music and costumes and voiceovers. Or, it can be all things.
Pappy’s Fun Club is such a rare thing. I saw them as they were preparing for a national tour of their second highly regarded show. Their debut Edinburgh show garnered rave reviews by the bucket load, and got a proper Perrier nomination, not just best newcomer. Incidentally, it will always be the Perrier, just as it will always be opal fruits and Jif (not together, of course).
They started off with some of their classics. They’ve been together for years, since going to the same uni together and doing stand-up. The great thing is there are real clear distinctions between them as people; they aren’t just all actors playing at being comedians. They actually work quite well as a nuclear family: Tom Parry is the bossy self important father, Brendan Dodds the fussing mother, Matthew Crosby the cynical, aloof older brother, and Ben Clark as the scampish younger brother, getting away with stuff because of his cheeky face. It must be quite strange for Ben to have a father figure only a year older than him.
The sketches are brilliant, because of the knockabout nature of their relationships with each other. They know just how far to push the improvisations with each other (Matthew speeding up a sketch because he was the back end of a whale and was hot was very funny, but also made it flow with the narrative of the skit). They also can pick up someone’s joke and take it to the next level. A bit of fun before the interval was the old army song “my eyes are dim I cannot see”, with them making up lyrics. When Ben struggled with Steph, and could only rhyme it with “greff”, a minute down the line they were using greff as a impromptu swearword, and it popped up as a call back. My absolute favourite was Internet versus Owl, where the there was a competition to see who was wiser. Tom came out half naked and with a keyboard attached to him with Clingfilm. He explained in an aside that it was supposed to be foil, but they brought the wrong one, and have stuck wit it ever since. Matt came out as an owl, by wearing a brown jumper and rubber gloves tucked in underneath for feet.
The cheerfully ramshackle nature of the show adds an extra element. There’s no big message underneath about politics or the state of the world. The message is have more fun. And that you don’t need fart jokes to make people laugh.