The Pajama Men are at the top of their game in their new show, which is playful, inventive and packed with gags
All the best comedians these days aren’t really on telly. Over the past few years Adam Riches, Dr Brown and Nick Helm have produced some exceptional comedy shows – shows so good you fart out loud – but these comedians are first and foremost, live comedians, far more elusive than your average stand-up. Successfully converting their respective personas onto telly, for whatever reason, hasn’t happened (Tim Key and to a degree Tony Law buck this trend).This is must be really annoying for them, but it’s great for us live comedy fetishists as it often means they stick around on the live circuit that bit longer.
Add to that list the Pajama Men. Quite simply one of the finest comedy acts of the past 10 years. Why this pair of cartoonish physical comedians is not on telly yet and doing Radio TImes interviews is anyone’s guess (the common complaint of risk-averse TV execs probably plays its part), and perhaps their time will come, but for now they are back in the West End with a new show, and it’s fabulously funny.
This is the third show in a row now by Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen that can be regarded as a classic. If they are frustrated at not being hoisted into TV land for all the cocaine and hookers money can buy, then a) it hasn’t dampened the joy with which they perform and b) it hasn’t blunted their skills either.
As ever, New Mexico’s Pajama Men, in their trademark, erm, pyjamas, introduce a series of characters in some short, silly sketches, before a storyline reveals itself and the characters are gradually weaved into it.
These character span vast swathes of time and space, from a middle ages English king and accompanying wizard, to a pair of redneck police officers, to a pair of bickering Italian lovebirds. So it’s no mean feat to catch them all in the same web – but PM manage it. I don’t want to give away too many details but it is essentially a story the world being threatened by an unseen, terrifying beast who visits earth less frequently than the laziest of comets. Imagine if you can a Lynchian disaster movie and you’re about there.
I’ve seen Chavez and Allen many times now and it is still a thrill to watch them. There’s so much to marvel at – Allen’s physical versatility, Chavez’s comic timing, the pace with which they shapeshift and play with perspective from one sketch and another … They also clearly love performing with each other, egging each other on and playing as if they are genuinely improvising (which they may well be).
What they’ve really added to their game is some killers one-liners. In one scene where they play two newsreaders, the gags just keep on coming, all bang on. And they’re peppered throughout the show too. To draw out a couple of other highlights, I loved the redneck officers whose investigation into a sinkhole turns a bit kinky, Chavez’s flubber-cheeked portrayal of a Harley Davidson, Allen’s portrayal of a squirrel, and the gay couple having an increasingly passive-aggressive argument.
I would argue it’s more dense with characters than it needs to be, so when they are being coalesced them into one plotline you can … see the joins, and it gets a bit hard to follow. This is something that has slightly undermined previous Pajama Men shows for me in fact, but that’s not what stays with you. What stays with how two phenomenal comic performers have yet again produced a show of invention, fun, and belly laughs. Now go see.
Review by Paul Fleckney. Note that the review rating is independent from the Pajama Men’s advertising on London is Funny