‘This show’s mostly about words, not much about vampires, so if you’re keen on vampires you might be disappointed,’ warns Mark Butler at the start of his set. Unfortunately, the show turns out not to be that much about words either – or to be all that good.
Mark Butler loves words, and has ever since he was a kid in the 1980s, when he used to make up new words to confuse other children in his British school. It’s a period he likes to talk about, and most of the set comes back to that place and time and how he’d create nicknames like ‘Scrolian’ (scrotum-alien) and ‘Calcularser’ (you can work that one out) for students and teachers. There’s lots of talk about bums, balls and poo, along with a little lazy sexism and some stereotypes to boot. Nothing horrifically offensive or anything; it’s all just a bit obvious and juvenile (and sometimes more than just a bit).
The sad thing about this show is that there’s so little in here about words and wordplay, despite that being the advertised drawcard. A few flashcards of long words, both real and made-up, is not enough to hang a show upon, and nor are a handful of jokes about the awfulness of using LOL like punctuation or which nationality is worst at swearing. The story of how 11-year-old Mark wrote his own dictionary, then found it again years later, has the potential to be really interesting and different – but it soon turns into another opportunity to dive into scatology. Mark has the comedic skills to do something unique and interesting about his passion for words, but instead he goes for the low-hanging fruit time after time.
If you like lads-down-the-pub jokes about words for genitalia or living in 80s Britain, then there may be something in Mark Butler’s set that appeals. If those aren’t your bag, and if you’re looking for comedy that doesn’t just take the easy way out most of the time, then there are better shows to see this year.
Mark Butler in Word Vampire is on at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, 7pm Mon-Sun until April 21st.