Brexit could well be the making of Dominic Frisby. The 50-year-old son of playwright Terence Frisby (responsible for perhaps the biggest stage-comedy success of the Sixties, There’s a Girl in My Soup) has been lurking on the margins of recognition since the Blair era, trying on various comedy hats (he started out doing spoof characters like the Upper-Class Rapper, before going on to compering).
His serious side, meanwhile, has been expressed – impressively – in financial journalism and a series of books that have attempted, post-crash, to get to grips with big questions about society, economics and technology. The first, Life After the State, signalled his anti-statism. Bitcoin was a well-received primer in the online currency. And he has just published what might sound like a comic death-knell: a book on tax!
His nous for the kind of subject-matter most born clowns would run a mile from and residual nose for comic opportunity have yielded succulent fruit this year, though. Going one step further than most right-leaning comedians would do he announced himself as a prospective Brexit Party parliamentary candidate. That has not come to pass (for logistical rather than ideological reasons) but he has done his bit to rally Brits to the cause of adhering to the Referendum result with a rebel folk song entitled 17 Million F--- Offs. Entailing mock-ecclesiastical solemnity and a jaunty inventory of those – from the Bank of England to Lord Adonis (“Who is he anyway?”) - who warned of rampant super-gonorrhea and the collapse of civilisation following a Leave vote – it has been enjoyed, on YouTube, by around half a million viewers.
He duly performed it in the bierkeller-like ‘crypt’ venue of the Museum of Comedy (an under-valued, memorabilia-crammed attraction) on the night Britain was supposed to have left the EU. It wasn’t vented in frothing fury – just with a rather British spirit of undefeated eccentricity. Joining Frisby – a twinkly-eyed, grey-bearded charmer sporting a fogeyish combo of top-hat and velvet smoking jacket, and strumming a travel ukulele - were two musicians in high-vis jackets: the ‘Gilet Jaunes’. The mood was one of a knees-up in a pub about to be raided by police for the unguarded expression of ordinary opinion.
The over-arching conceit for the short set, off-loading an album’s worth of gently outspoken and wittily provoking ditties, is that they collectively set out his stall for his utopian country – Libertaria, the national anthem of which we’re invited (but only on a voluntary basis) to sing at the start (“Leave us alone, let a thousand flowers bloom”). The music for that one? A steal from the Russian national anthem; all kinds of other playful borrowing ensues.
There’s a genius touch of Gilbert and Sullivan to some of the rhyming. “It’s an administrative mire - overworked and tired, the staff are inundated… but mention a thing about shortcomings and you’re excommunicated” – he faux cheeky-cheerily intones – like a latter-day George Formby - in a devil’s advocate critique of the NHS that mounts a similar anti-orthodox campaign on behalf of Trump and Boris. Funk music helps lambast crony capitalism, rap-music is employed to assail modern blandness, and calypso to damn ‘government’ outright.
Wetherspoons gets praised to the tune of I’d Do Anything from Oliver! and Nigel Farage is the subject of a smoochy American love song that’s 48 per cent tongue in cheek, 52 per cent baitingly in earnest. Serious themes are regulated with a light-touch. If you prefer a sleek, sardonic, lefty comedian, please ask for one at the Museum of Comedy’s sister venue, the Leicester Square Theatre. Yet in its very modest, ramshackle way this free-thinking show – getting the shortest of runs after trialling in Edinburgh this summer - is the one that gets my vote.