Luke McQueen has never been one to shy away from a cunning stunt, even if it’s likely to anger his audience or his fellow comics. In previous years he’s stolen Frankie Boyle’s audience and committed minor acts of public nuisance in nothing but his underwear. This year, he’s “appropriated” Tape Face‘s former moniker, on the grounds that “it looked like a really successful brand”.
It’s not clear how many of the audience in the packed-out Monkey Barrel Banana Skin think they’re here to see Sam Wills’ mute alter-ego, but McQueen is a storming success with all of them regardless. He’s a frenetic and confrontational comedian, who literally explodes onto stage, popping out of a giant balloon. McQueen’s energy and intensity are like a physical assault, and even though this show is a bit closer to pure stand-up than some of his previous work, the sense of vivid unpredictability remains.
McQueen loves to get hapless audience members to become unwitting participants in his shows. The Boy With Tape On His Face is no exception, but his main target tonight gives as good as she gets, at one point throwing a full pint over an already-sweating McQueen. It’s a marvelous moment of unrepeatable live comedy, made all the more so because of McQueen’s obvious delight in being challenged on his own turf. The show ends with McQueen setting up an audience member to deliver a perfect callback to an earlier joke in the show. It’s a clever and audacious move, and McQueen orchestrates it perfectly.
He really feels like an undiscovered treasure. His anarchic and confrontational style is far from mainstream, but Luke McQueen is rapidly (and rightly) beginning to be regarded as a minor deity of the alternative comedy scene. The slapstick and stupidity of his act cleverly masks a very smart and subtle performer. He’s thought carefully about what he’s putting on stage, and how his audience is going to consume it. This is comedy as theatre, and maybe even comedy as art.