Born in 1954, Andy Hamilton has seen a number of changes throughout his life. As have his audience, as the number of raised hands shows when he does it a quick poll as to how many others were born in the fifties, and again to ascertain the number of Radio 4 listeners in the room. In the surrounds of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, this was a middle aged, middle class, audience, and Andy Hamilton played to his audience, with a middle of the road show. Change Management is his new show, all about, well, the changes, vicissitudes and shifts that have taken place over the years.
There are some changes that are a concern for Hamilton, due to being rooted in three things, as far as he sees – fear, marketing, and narcissism. Whereas his parents raised his generation based on the premise that whatever was happening, at least they weren’t being bombed, today’s society is one obsessed with risk management and protection, and so we have the expected but no less able to raise a smile jokes about insurance ads and accident claim hotlines. Politics has sold out to marketing and sport is drenched in advertising, and we’ve moved from a society where we make stuff to a ‘society where we sell advice to one another.’ And finally narcissism – well you’ve only got to look at social media and selfies to see how technology has enabled or enforced that change upon us.
But this isn’t a grumpy old man moaning about how life was so much better when he was a lad. Instead Hamilton delivers soft and easy observational comedy about the changing flow of life, not passing judgement (mostly), just remarking on the alterations. Hamilton is engaging, mixing cheerful quips with thoughtful observations and insights. One thing that certainly has changed is the way that comedians today are expected to be close to the bone and as controversial as possible. The conversational tone of Hamilton doesn’t subscribe to this – it’s not about generating as many column inches as possible or inciting drama, just making people smile at the absurdities of life. This isn’t to say that everything is safe – jokes about Hitler come up – but it’s not provocative for the sake of it.
Over the two hours the audience come to like Hamilton. Granted, they probably appreciated his humour anyway, having paid the ticket price and come out to the show, but throughout the live experience they come to like Andy Hamilton the man. He is the kind of uncle you’d love to entertain you at a family gathering, the guy down the pub filled with stories as his sups his pint, or the teacher who would tell you down your textbooks whilst he regaled you with far more educational tales. Witty and laidback satirical anecdotes are his style, and it’s one he wears well.
As if to summarise the off kilter but safe nature of his show, the finale is a crowd rendition of Ging Gang Goolie, sung to the tune of the German national anthem. Eyes gaze around, slightly confused by the bizarre ending – but everyone is smiling. That’s what comedy is about.
Andy Hamilton is renowned for his long-running BBC Radio 4 sitcom Old Harry’s Game appears as a panel regular on The News Quiz, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Have I Got News For You and QI along with co-creating and writing for Ballot Monkeys and hit sitcom Outnumbered. Change Management is touring until the end of November 2015.
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