Nic Wright

Review: Alex Horne: Lies – The Stand, Newcastle

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Spoiler alert; if a comedian starts a bit with the words “this is absolutely  true…” it’s not – but considering they have to spend extended periods of time making strangers laugh, you can probably forgive comics for embellishing the truth about their antics a little.

Not Alex Horne, however, who argues that most stand-up comedy is simply regurgitating other people’s amusing stories. Horne’s problem with this strategy, he admits, is that nothing funny ever happens in his own life.

The big question is; does it matter? As long as the accounts of our chosen raconteurs are entertaining, isn’t that the bottom line?

In his new show, Lies, the former £50k-a-year owl impersonator invents, borrows or skews tales, relaying them in his own pleasingly-nerdy fashion, creating a clever deconstruction of the untruths that riddle stand-up comedy.

Nothing is what it seems here, as Horne employs all manner of audio trickery to create an intricate, impeccably timed show.

Continually peeling back layers of deceit, he interweaves his highly-conceptual gags with brilliantly constructed puns, and at least one true story recounting a desperately embarrassing, and fib-filled, appearance on Radio 4.

In a further bending of the truth for amusement’s sake, Horne takes snippets of autobiographies by Michael Caine, Cherie Blair (QC) and Andre Agassi, and reconstructs them for his own ends.

Chiming in with their own contributions, arguing amongst themselves and flirting with members of the audience, Horne’s celebrity guests – plus a talking panda and another version of Horne himself – create a witty, chaotic cacophony, anchored by Horne’s warm and genial presence.

Though the chorus occasionally becomes distracting, swallowing up punch lines without leaving much breathing space, the concept proves glitteringly inventive and engaging, providing an ever-expanding framework on which Horne pins his meandering, self-effacing porkies.

With such a complex model at the heart of a show, it takes a bright and winning conductor to keep the idea from becoming a gimmick.

Thankfully, with his inclusive audience rapport and breakneck patter, Horne is an even better comedian than he was an owl impersonator.

Date of live review: Sunday 19 January 2014.