Part of Geoff Norcott’s reasoning in being a member of the Conservative Party is that he looks at the current state of the Labour Party – and thinks he’s better off staying blue, as it were. I wonder if the same would have been true twenty years ago, when New Labour was in the ascendancy and the Conservatives, having been in power for just under eighteen years, were, generally speaking, unpopular with the electorate. The audience didn’t, to the best of my recollection, discover anything ground-breaking in Norcott’s decision to be a Conservative – indeed, the only ‘unusual’ thing to note is that he is a fully paid-up member of a political party in the first place. The vast majority of people in this country, whatever their level of interest in politics and Parliament, are not members of any party. The pros and cons of the status quo in this regard are another discussion for another time.
As Norcott readily admits, the entertainment industry as a whole tends to veer towards the left. The broad and cosmopolitan nature of London meant that he seemed genuinely surprised to discover that, in the opening night audience of his Conswervative tour, there were as many people who were sympathetic to his political stances as people against. I wasn’t in the slightest bit perturbed by a right of centre man speaking in what Norcott himself called a ‘working class accent’ – the cards that life deals people are not necessarily indicative of their politics. The late Tony Benn was very well spoken, for instance, and was Labour through and through. Conservative Party membership, Norcott mused, “is like buying a James Blunt album”, insofar as it is (apparently) socially undesirable to admit to either, particularly if one is trying to impress someone.
This rather intense and rapidly paced hour of raucous hilarity is made all the more enjoyable by Norcott’s ability to not take himself too seriously. Rather than defend the latest Budget, he acknowledges that the decision to raise National Insurance contributions for people classed as self-employed is indefensible and un-Conservative. Bingo: rapport with the audience firmly established. Like many stand-up routines, there are plenty of details about his personal life and career history. The problem when he worked as a teacher wasn’t so much the pupils as their parents, some of whom allegedly defer to their offspring instead of the other way around. His own parents, too, were far from perfect.
An interesting, and bold, twist came two-thirds of the way through: a “heckling amnesty”. One of the major criticisms from some quarters about contemporary comedy is that sets are so neat, polished, rehearsed to perfection – as though it were a musical. While there is nothing wrong with precision in musicals (the more of it the better), there aren’t many comedians today that would interrupt themselves to allow the audience to ask questions and take them to task over anything they’d heard up to that point. There were no questions taken in advance via Twitter, or vetted by a tour manager: this was a pure, unadulterated breaching of the fourth wall.
How ironic that the biggest laugh of the night came from a contribution by an audience member, about President Trump washing his hair with ‘TRESemmé’, a swipe at Trump’s unconventional pronunciation of ‘Theresa May’. I might well take issue (and even take umbrage) with some of the ideas propounded, but this didn’t stop this from being a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A trade unionist’s son who grew up on a council estate, Geoff Norcott is wondering how the hell he ended up leaning to the right.
However, in the last 12 months, defending his light blue sympathies has become the least of Geoff’s problems. From having to justify his Leave vote to distancing himself from the rise of the sinister ‘alt-right’, Geoff is fire-fighting by turning his satirical eye on the hysteria and hypocrisies of the British liberal left.
In Conswervative Geoff comes to terms with being a class traitor while also taking uncompromising stances on issues ranging from depression, benefit fraud and the maudlin British obsession with the NHS. Malingerers are still welcome, just don’t expect concessions.
Conswervative is the debut tour from the Leicester Comedy Festival Best New Show nominee and writer for Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night (2015), BBC1’s Live At The Apollo, BB2’s The Sarah Millican Television Programme, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Alan Carr’s Happy Hour (both C4), and Sky 1’s A League of Their Own.
Geoff Norcott: Conswervative
Date: March 9th 2017
Venue: Leicester Square Theatre
6 Leicester Place, London, WC2H 7BX
Duration: 60 minutes