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August 10 1999

Bibi Van Der Zee

There’s a moment as Mitch Benn walks on stage when you feel like groaning, because here comes (oh no!) a big bloke dressed in a patchwork shirt with shoulder length bleached hair, carrying (God help us) a guitar. Calm down, sit back; within three bars of Benn’s first song, you start laughing helplessly and really only get the occasional break till he goes off again.

Benn’s show is a mixture of comic songs (one of them begins “Oh no, he’s got a guitar - he’s a singing comedian and everybody knows how shit they all are”) and rapid-fire jokes about beggars on the underground, Pringles crisps, getting married, and other eternal mysteries. In one song, he tries to grapple up close with some of the issues that perplex our generation; How do you iron shirt sleeves? What is the offside rule again?

Don’t expect him to start pushing back the boundaries of comedy; one comedian (whose show is on around the same time) sniffed, “Not really a comedian’s comedian, if you know what I mean.” What that seems to mean is that Benn’s show includes jokes that any plain member of the public can get; you don’t have to have a degree in neurology to laugh at a song that starts ‘I realised on the day we met / You were the kind of girl I could never get / ‘Cos I was creepy and unpopular / But at least I had my binoculars”, and ends with Benn promising to come and see her again when they lift the restraining order.

Victoria Wood with a beard and a few more neuroses? Well-crafted, well-sung, his songs are just plain funny. ****

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