Before he even comes on stage, Gary Delaney effectively sets up the premise of Gagster’s Paradise via a selection of his Tweets projected onto a screen. This aptly encapsulates the show, which he deceptively describes as “just a load of jokes joined together”. This is, of course, an accurate surface description. It’s how Delaney weaves all of this together that is masterful.
Reeling off selections of jokes from a clipboard and rating them from A-D depending on the size of the laugh, Delaney instantly draws attention to the craft of comedy and how it represents a two way transaction between comic and audience. The dichotomy between clean and “naughty” jokes is also raised as he describes the challenge of reimagining various Christmas cracker jokes for a family audience. Both of these key elements are used to bind his set together and stop it from becoming a mere string of gags. With no “story” to tell he instead begins to pick apart the nature of stand-up as his preferred method of cohesion.
Indeed, at times it almost feels like a masterclass is being given and he acts as if he’s giving a “directors commentary” on the proceedings. “I’m giving you the footnotes version,” he grins, and it’s a layer of artifice that includes the audience in the sense of camaraderie he outlines as being an integral part of comedy. Discussions of puns, jokes which conjure images, call backs, punchlines, stage persona and shamelessly using local references are peppered throughout.
Slides are used as little thematic points of focus in between the jokes, with daft Wikipedia entries, mocked up greetings cards and spoof Amazon reviews all being thrown into the mix. Perhaps the video on the genuine city of Gary is the only true misstep as it feels like an unnecessary and tenuous lead in. Overall it’s refreshing not to be presented with material which clusters around oh-so-topical material such as Brexit, and the machine gun approach of gag after gag never allows for a boring period.
Delaney even includes a little sing-a-long (“for the over forties”) and a game of adding a rude joke to the pile every time the audience indignantly reacts to some of the more near-the-knuckle offerings on display. Glasgow ends up with seven of these and they don’t disappoint, with references to celebrity deaths, paedophilia and bestiality. Most gloriously of all these rude jokes are offered up against a cartoon image of a clown and jaunty music so that there’s something to look at and listen to for those of a nervous disposition (which is, of course, nobody in attendance).
Delaney should be insufferable; a smug bore who laughs at some of his own jokes and constantly draws attention to his methods. “Don’t want to show off but I’m proud of that,” he proclaims about a hoover related joke which has three punchlines. Fair enough in the case of that one; it is pretty outstanding and it’ll be difficult to look at a Henry in the same way again. Eventually Delaney trusts the audience when delivering “punchline-less jokes”, a little moment of seeming parity between comic and those he is entertaining. His is a subtle method of entertaining and praising the audience whilst including them and slyly selling himself to create a fantastic loop of positivity. “You are excellent – I can get away with anything tonight,” he proclaims and he’s not wrong: the audience are all on side. And justifiably so.