Emerging in a distinctive tall hat, Simon Munnery in Hats Off To The 101ers shows us the meaning of his title, a one-man punk musical about the English R101 airship of the 1930s and important figures in its history. Curious! He also delivers what MICF guide promises: “poems, jokes, aphorisms, anecdotes and monologues”. Tall hat, humorous allsorts, intense delivery with musical interludes … Munnery is the Willy Wonka of stand-up comedy.
When Munnery gets on a roll the jokes fly, extracting a laugh from the audience as another looms ready to pounce. His forceful delivery is used to good comedic effect in some monologues to convey a maniacal edge to some of his characters, for example, a man plotting a final victory over his lice.
It’s not all inspired silliness however. Munnery continues a comedy tradition of using humour to broach awkward issues and confront the audience with certain less-charitable community attitudes, such as on immigrants. During his speech on feminism by a male academic, the line, “Feminism, now that it’s finished…” was gleefully received as the character proceeded to make further disparaging comments on women from his unsympathetic point of view. (I guess that equal work for equal pay idea did turn out to be just a phase, didn’t it?)
Like all master chocolatiers, Munnery knows the value of some darker material in the assortment. This is achieved through twisted comic poems and a cardboard puppet show. I would caution that anyone who objects to humour tangential to Christian stories (such as in Monty Python’s Life of Brian) may not find the scene agreeable. I found it a magical confection, especially given its low-tech nature.
I suspect Munnery is even more clever than we realise at first listen. If I have a regret about this show it is that I can’t remember more of his toying with language, but his book of aphorisms gives a bit of a prompt. Stop licking that wallpaper and get along to see Munnery’s lunatic creations.