There is a man onstage in a Sainsbury-orange jumper wiping sweat out from under his large spectacles as he sings Bruce Springsteen songs, stopping occasionally to analyze the lyrics. Simon Munnery is not your traditional standup comic. In fact, he makes this very clear from the get-go, mocking crowd work comics by asking the audience, “Anywhere here from anywhere? Anyone notice anything ever?”
Do not punish yourself. You deprive the world of its purpose.
Munnery has given up smoking, shifting his addiction to telling people he’s given up smoking, and then to harmonica playing, at least until he discovers harmonica players are even less welcome in restaurants than smokers. Munnery has an extremely long scarf upon which are knitted the words to a poem. He asks the audience to pass the scarf along the rows, singing out the words as they pass. This creates a din of people all singing different words while Munnery plays harmonica, watching his experiment like some kind of overlord. The audience bends to his will.
This is the typical absurdity you’ll find in Simon’s act, which makes it all the more shocking when he spends a portion of the show talking about what it’s like having kids. Parents will claim that once they have a child, there’s really nothing else to talk about with other adults, and the same seems true for comedians, as the majority of mainstream comics who have kids have worked them into their act, but for Munnery to do the same seems out of character. This is the man who once guillotined a worm onstage! Not that his stories aren’t funny.
Now, “funny” hasn’t always been the goal of Munnery’s work, which you may find odd for a comedian. There are more important things a comedian can do, and Munnery experiments with everything. Sometimes it’s successful and sometimes it isn’t. Probably the highlight of this Hello DVD is the puppet show. Yes, you heard right. There is a paper depiction of the two criminals left on the crosses after Jesus has left this world. They discuss whether Jesus was actually the son of God, as well as more trivial things like siblings, wine, and pet dogs. Although this segment goes on forever, it never stops being entertaining.
Okay so “entertaining” hasn’t always been a goal of Munnery either, but much of it is. One thing I personally am not big on is probably Munnery’s most famous character Alan Parker, Urban Warrior. There’s really only so much of his protest songs that one can take. That isn’t to say that all Munnery’s characters are like this. His sexist lecturer of Women’s Studies, explaining how bras have gotten in the way of evolution, is quite good. His Sherlock Holmes story, which you can get in its entirety on the special features part of the DVD, is no less than brilliant. His security guard spouting a series of security guard-related one-liners is also amusing.
Munnery has a book of one-liners. He reads the entire book to the audience. They contain phrases like “A million monkeys were given a million typewriters. It’s called the internet.” He also reads from a book of 180 questions received from fans along with his witty replies. The rest of the show is peppered with more poems and singing in the style of Bob Dylan.
Simon Munnery: Hello is a standup DVD available from Go Faster Stripe. You can get the download for five pounds, or the DVD for twelve. The DVD comes with special features, including the Sherlock story (“I am a man of science. That is how I dun it!”), a trailer for some old video Simon made, and a lengthy recording of Simon’s 1989 double act stage show called God & Jesus. The sound and video quality aren’t great, but it’s addicting to watch a very young Simon in his tweed jacket reciting 37 minutes of one-liners with annoying rising inflection. The DVD is region zero, so you should be able to play it on any DVD player, though not necessarily a Blu-Ray player.