“I’m just reading you the news,” said Matt Chorley repeatedly throughout his political stand-up show This is Not Normal. Of course, yet another bafflingly stupid thing a politician has said in his time covering British politics. That’s the funny thing, in recent years politics is so mad and politicians so self-parodying that political comedy almost writes itself.
Almost being the key word here, because it takes a certain type of talent and personality to pull off what Chorley is attempting to do. I’m happy to report he does so with success, charming his audience and getting them laughing, participating and even singing.
I attended the show alone. I had attempted to get a friend to accompany me, but he said no because “political comedy is shit”. He has a point. I find politically focused stand-up comedy almost invariably tedious. Generally, it’s performed by unfunny comics who seem to prefer to inspire applause rather than laughter. Luckily, that isn’t what Chorley’s show is all about.
This is a comedic lecture from a well-informed journalist who has been covering politics for The Times for 14 years. Anyone familiar with the Red Box newsletter, as a majority of the audience were, knows Chorley’s cutting takedowns and ability to find comedy in despair. Last night I saw him bring it to life on stage.
He tells stories illustrated with photos and graphics, including photos of him with various politicians from Tony Blair to David Cameron. He manages to construct a narrative of British politics becoming gradually madder and stupider over the course of his 14 years of covering it (is it actually Matt Chorley’s fault?) as a series of events and poor decisions leads to the destabilisation of both political parties and the very system itself.
In the first half he takes us from Blair’s third election victory and David Cameron’s victory in the Tory leadership race (arguably the source of many of our issues), through to the expenses scandal, the AV referendum and a good few minutes on Paul Nutall’s bizarre and unintentionally hilarious tenure as Ukip leader.
His mockery of Paul Nutall was a highlight, which illustrates well what the show is all about. Essentially, he retells some of the most bafflingly stupid things Nutall said while Ukip leader in a very amusing way, peppered with his own observations. It’s very much the way he tells them. Like Nutall’s response to the furore over his fake CV, “It’s not as if I’ve been caught in a paedophile ring,” Chorley points out the curious choice of the word “caught”. Caught!? This show is all about Chorley riffing on the absurdities of politics and politicians in a brilliant way.