Masterslut: Tim Key at The Arts Theatre, London

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Tim Key is not like other comics, and not just because he is first and foremost a poet. No, Tim Key has a bath. A full soapy bath of water on stage, whose bubbles he playfully flicks at the crowd using a single rose as they file in and begin to take their seats. He also leisurely enjoys a punnet of strawberries as he surveys the theatre in front of him. If all this sounds strange that’s because it is, but in Key’s world it all seems to make sense. Kind of. Okay, maybe not, but regardless he’s still a very funny man.

Although you may not be familiar with his solo work, you may recognise his face. He plays the incompetent Sidekick Simon in the online Alan Partridge Mid-Morning Matters series, was a minor character in an episode of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Life’s Too Short, and is also that bloke who really enjoyed the pint of Strongbow in that advert. Masterslut (a play on the words mastermind or Masterchef, “both work”, and slut as Key helpfully points out) is a combination of poetry, pre-recorded films and more traditional stand-up. While it is perhaps for his poems that he is best known (tonight, inexplicably mounted and laminated on a pack of pornographic playing cards) the funniest material on display comes from Key’s interaction with the audience during any one of his numerous verbal ramblings. He is clearly a very quick-witted individual, demonstrated during a hilarious section of the show where he gets individual audience members in the front row to shout out a word each in sequence in an attempt to create a story, whilst making dry asides about each word provided and speculating on where the story could possibly be going.

Where he really shines, however, is in his sense of comic timing, which is absolutely beat perfect. From the entertaining conversations that flow back and forth between the man himself and his ever-present technician Dougie at the back of the theatre, right down to the moments where he submerges his head in the aforementioned bath while a video plays in the background supposedly depicting events unfolding, unseen beneath the surface of the water.

It is near impossible to explain anecdotally what makes his shows so funny but a lot of it lies in the performance itself, so I can only recommend going to see the man to find out what all the fuss is about. There is no doubt that Key’s appeal will remain a mystery to some, but if spending an evening in the company of a fully clothed man in a bath eating strawberries and drinking Ruddles, whilst reading poetry laminated on the back of pornographic playing cards sounds wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

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