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Justin Panks: Wrong Time
The Camden Head
15th August 2013

★★★★☆

Amalia Vitale and Stephen Sobal

Photography supplied by Justin Panks

With jokes about body hair, chubby chasers and the evolution of porn, Justin Panks has a typically laddish style of comedy. But whilst he goes after plenty of laughs at his wife's expense, he also sends himself up, thereby managing not to alienate the women in his audience. Panks, after all, may be a self-proclaimed alpha male, but that doesn't make him stupid. No, he sees that thin line, and he runs towards it at full speed, but stops in just time to avoid seriously getting anyone's nose out of joint.

Wrong Time is an hour of pure stand up which both sexes will find funny. Although, there may be a slight gender skew, as whilst I did thoroughly enjoy his set, some of the men were close to crying with laughter, the jokes clearly resonating more deeply for them. Panks is rude, crude, but still inherently likeable. Underneath the hard-man exterior lies a fairly affable bloke, not some boorish jerk a la Dane Cook or Daniel Tosh.

The premise for Panks' show is that as a typical he-man, he's been born at the worst time possible, with 2013 not favouring men like him. He regales us with tales of how things were in his father's day, how he had hoped for similar, and how his dreams of taking it easy were crushed by changing attitudes and female empowerment. He may wear the trousers, but he still has to change dirty nappies and make his own tea.

All in all, this makes for the kind of show that's easy to get into. Panks isn't exactly mild, he'll drop whatever word bomb he feels like, but he creates a relaxed atmosphere. This isn't a challenging show by any means, but it's still a very funny one. Some of the biggest laughs came from comparing and contrasting himself to his father, and describing life with a wife and toddler in a small village in Norfolk. When Panks moves from general observations into his own world, he becomes even sharper.

In a risky bid for comedy gold, Panks decided to pick out one member of the audience and focus on him, constantly referring to his new best friend in he front row. It's a tactic that can sometimes pay dividends - one person is made to be feel special, the rest feel frankly relieved at knowing they won't get picked on for the rest of the gig. It certainly wasn't confrontational, however to Panks' detriment on this occasion, as the subject of his attention got carried away, interrupting in the middle of punchlines and being silent whenever he wanted a response to bounce off. Panks didn't let any of this derail his show however, and smoothed over the unexpected interactions well.

A lot of the comedy shows this Camden Fringe have been over-reliant on sound effects, costumes, props, video clips - we could go on. Sometimes when you pare it down to the lowest common denominator, it actually works better. Wrong Time is raw, it's honest, it's funny.

Justin Panks: Wrong Time opened on 15th August and runs until 18th August 2013, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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