Soaking up the laughter

Paul Zerdin Sponge Fest, Spa pavilion, Felixstowe, Friday August 5

Paul Zerdin Sponge Fest, Spa pavilion, Felixstowe, Friday August 5

There are few occasions in life when you feel you are in the presence of someone who is the best in the world at what they do but if there is a better ventriloquist on the planet than Paul Zerdin, then I’m the dummy.

Armed with Sam the naughty lad, Albert the naughty old boy and Baby, the naughty... well, baby, Zerdin – definitely the best looking of them all - had the family audience at the Spa in stitches.

In the case of Paul Zerdin, talking to yourself is a sign of greatness.

His material is brilliantly conceived and delivered. While his assured comedy depends on creating his characters he also deconstructs his art, often reminding us that our sympathy is wasted on a puppet. Even the puppets frequently observe that, although their mouths are moving, he’s the one doing the talking.

Complicit in this peerless comic anarchy, we found ourselves dissolving into helpless laughter as he romped confidently through an hour or more of hilarity.

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And boy, does Zerdin work hard. Whether he is working a puppet or, on a couple of occasions, a member of his audience, the pace never falters. A 10-year-old-lad acquired a deep, butch voice while a grown man with, presumably, a naturally deep, butch voice was bestowed shrill, high-camp tones.

The final sequence of Zerdin’s act saw the puppets take the stage without their master; mind boggling.

Talented comedy magician Mandy Nugen opened the evening, winning us over with some very funny one-liners and seemingly botched tricks. Her nicely wicked humour was belied a little by her costume... she looked a bit as if she was coming on stage to do the interval raffle.

It is a pity we don’t get a few more great variety acts on the telly. Top notch performers like these deserve air time. You get the feeling television producers are only interested in wannabes and not the real thing. On the evidence of this terrific evening of entertainment, we are all missing out.