It would be advisable to turn up early to Andy Zaltzman’s new Fringe show Plan Z. Around ten minutes before his set begins, punctual attendees are treated to a series of public service announcements and adverts. These rise in absurdity and hilarity, and have the audience well on side before proceedings begin.
It’s curious then, that Zaltzman does nothing to milk this, simply wandering on stage during the last of them and beginning his hour. Most acts would bask in the glow of applause for a bit, but Zaltzman seems unconcerned. He has no time for such trivialities, he has a manifesto to unveil. This is his Plan Z; his proposal for making the world a better place.
For a man espousing peace, he commits heinous acts of violence against language. Some of the similes he uses are tortured far beyond the limits of the Geneva Conventions. This is the great joy of an Andy Zaltzman show. Regardless of the topic – and Trump, Brexit, democracy, and our new shiny, utterly unelected government are all in his sights – he will always find the most lengthy, circuitous and ridiculous way to express his opinion. Some of these mangled metaphors land wonderfully, some elicit bafflement from the audience (which is just as funny, in its own way).
There is an air of gleeful silliness about Plan Z, which is absent from the work of many satirists. Topical comedy is a serious business after all. Zaltzman himself has a slightly dour, unassuming demeanour that masks his puckish sense of humour. He utilises props, including a pineapple and a squash, claiming these are machines that will read the desires of the audience, and will thusly auto-create his manifesto. To achieve this he dons a sweatband with an aerial attached, and spends the rest of the show resembling John McEnroe in his 70s permed heyday.
It has to be said however, that the show still feels a bit like a work-in-progress at times. There are instances where Zaltzman himself pauses after a joke falls flat and acknowledges that it needs tweaking. The show also rather fizzles to a close, like a contraband Mexican firework, when the great unveiling of Plan Z should be the highlight. Despite this, Andy Zaltzman is a fine, inventive satirist, and if you’re looking for a different spin on what are now ubiquitous subjects, he’s very much recommended.