“That was a character, by the way”, Simon Munnery reminds the audience at the end of his riotous, oddly poignant farewell to Alan Parker, the 1980s anarchist punk who remains his most famous creation (sorry, Buckethead fans).
It was important to point this out. I doubt Parker ever inspired a legion of fans not quite understanding the joke, as with Al Murray’s tragic pub landlord. But a misogynistic, hyper-righteous, still-lives-with-his-parents environmentalist is bound to say a few things that are beyond the boundaries of taste.
One reductio ab adsurdum joke, tearing apart both the nonsense of anti-semitism and the character’s idiot-savant understanding of it, was brilliant; but you could pretty much hear the buttocks of the audience clenching during the set up.
Munnery is unique, a one-off. And here, he hasn’t just dusted off his character who was on the telly thirty years ago, like a punk band singing those hits about being young and invincible while picking up their bus pass. Instead, and winningly, he’s updated Parker to these Extinction Rebellion times (and doesn’t like their logo).
And so, amid the gorgeous wordplay, ludicrous sloganeering and supreme ad libs, we see him with a gilet jaune under his aviator, and an iPhone strapped to his ankle (we’re being tracked at all times, brothers and sisters).
Similarly, a joke about The Clash written in 1987 rubs shoulders with references to Greta Thunberg commandments – sorry, “Demandments” – referencing austerity, slavery, and migration.
Parker is still wrong about everything, but like all the best characters, his motivations are pure and his approach to the modern world – subvert everything to the point of incoherence – is a thrilling one.
The absurd logical and linguistic cul-de-sacs Munnery takes us along are relentless, and the punchlines so taut that it was almost difficult to keep up with the material. Occasionally, I wanted just a bit more time to digest the full beauty of Parker’s conclusions, before he spun off into wanking, or Morris dancing, or downing a pint of cider and chickpea juice.
But mainly, I’m sad to see him go. Parker was a grotesque, nonsensical, but still extremely believable version of a very specific type of radical. Those people are still with us, they are still angry and, in an era of mass misinformation and climate breakdown, they are, no matter how mockable their methods, still right.