Paul Tonkinson at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, February 16, 2013
IT is the mark of an excellent comedian that they can take a gig which is going down a bit of a strange route - with a “contrary” audience who aren’t so much heckling as auditioning the act - and turn it to their advantage. I’m not sure that Paul Tonkinson managed to perform much of his planned routine (one joke, about Northern Rock, was completely abandoned), but I doubt that anyone felt short-changed by his performance, which saw him bouncing off the audience like a raver in an Ibizan superclub.
A rather relevant simile, as it happens, as Tonkinson disclosed (in a planned part of the show) that he is a former raver who has loved-up flash backs to a more hedonistic time whenever he hears a dance tune from that era - even if it’s in a supermarket. But Tonkinson is no addled E-casualty; he’s now the father of three rising teens, who diss him at every opportunity, and who now gets his buzz from buying a butter dish.
Respect also needs to go to his wife for putting up with being a central part of his act, with her randy return home from a girls’ night out being re-enacted in a toe curling manner. Sex formed a largish part of Tonkinson’s set, but not in an overly blue manner - it was more about the cosy home comforts of pipe-and-slippers relations arising from a 17-year marriage.
Although Tonkinson has been on the stand-up comedy circuit for some 20 years, and won prestigious Time Out comedy awards early in his career, this is his first solo tour. It may well be extended experience of the UK’s cut-throat comedy clubs and lack of crowd worship as a comedy god, that enabled him to respond so well to a potentially difficult audience. He laughed self-depracatingly at his low public profile, being mistaken for cyclist Bradley Wiggins being the nearest he gets to celebrity.
A regular entertainer of British troops abroad, Tonkinson described The Corn Exchange crowd as “tougher than Afghanistan”, but you could tell that actually this was exactly the sort of crowd that he likes to work with. I think we should clear one thing up for him though - after a palpable outcry from the audience, I fear that he left Newbury under the impression that Slough is not in the Royal County. Paul: Slough is in Berkshire. We just like to pretend that it isn’t.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, February 21, 2013