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Mike Shephard: Zazou!
Etcetera Theatre
13th August 2016


Mike Shephard

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Have you heard the one where a man walks into a bar and tells a Nazi joke? No? Well, it's Mike Shephard: Zazou!, an hour-long gig in which the comedian talks about what he did on his holiday, pre-1990s pop culture and 20th-century history. Shephard manages to get the Nazis into at least two of those subjects and if nothing else, proves he stayed awake in his history lessons and took notes whilst the rest of us were either asleep or doodling merrily away. This may be a comedy show, but every day's a school day and Shephard may well teach you something new. Pay attention, there may be a quiz.

Shephard's style is deliberately repetitive, eking out the last drop of laughter from every joke, at one point prompting a spontaneous round of applause from the audience begging him to move onto something else. Although it does work and it is funny, he does push this to the absolute limit. Shephard is loud, angry, whiney and yet surprisingly affable, with his tales of exploring America without a driving licence landing well. Given his clear interest in politics, it's perhaps surprising he doesn't push the Brexit point further, however he does make plenty of references that prove he's able to adapt his material as required. He also seamlessly weaves in a dig at a late arrival, which shows some sharp improv skills and endears him to the whole audience.

Whilst the Bond joke provides Shephard with a through line, it's not particularly funny the first time and does start to get somewhat tedious. Shepherd's enthusiastic recounting of BBC classic 'Allo 'Allo is a fond blast from the past, allowing him to segue into some Hitler gags and explain the meaning behind his show's title. There's something inherently likeable about a comedian who rejects the last 20 years of pop culture (those of old enough to remember the 1990s still yearn for those simpler times of endless repeats of Friends, the Macarena and portable cassette players). Zazou is a direct reference to the Occupation and remaining defiant in the face of injustice, with Shephard himself defiant in the face of modern times. Ooh, what a rebel.

Shephard has been hitting the festival circuit now for a few years, and this does show in his remarkably calm manner. Even when he's shouting and screeching, it's all very controlled and deliberately planned. There are a few parts where I'm less convinced all the repetition is down to his style and suspect he's using this to buy himself a bit more time as he recalls the next line, however he's certainly unflappable and gives the appearance of knowing his material inside out. Zazou! is a solid set which provokes far more laughs than groans and promises an entertaining time.

As the man himself might say, I don't know if this review helps. Does it help? I don't know what I've given you, but it's probably your father's... No, wait. Let's never use that joke again, Shepherd. And listen very carefooly, I shall say zis only wence.

Mike Shephard: Zazou! opened on 13th August and runs until 14th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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