Saturday, 9 August 2014

Das Vegas Nights

Frank Sanazi's biggest problem is that he will over-shadow any act on a variety bill. His concept - mashing up the lounge stylings of Sinatra and the Nuremberg rally moves of Hitler - not only allowed him to chase after jokes that would be painfully offensive stripped of his naive charm and ironic patter, but gave him a routine that pays tribute to the Weimar Republic cabaret and its bohemian politics. Mocking Hitler, and able to do a good impersonation of ol' blue eyes: Sanazi works himself a free pass to make jokes that would make Jim Davidson blush. Yet his tireless good humour - apart from when Adolf's ghost possesses him during the sing-alongs - and rapport with  the audience earns him guilty laughs.

Unfortunately, the other acts in Das Vegas Nights - aside from Betty Grumble, who is an emanation of the goddess Ishtar, anyway - struggle to balance the bad taste brilliance of the Fuhrer. A piss-take of a dubious vicar can't stand up to Frank singing from Mein Way on a Steinway. In another bill, it might work out. Against the swingin' monorch, it feels too easy.

And Frank is pushing forward. Whereas earlier editions of the show revelled in the sudden shifts between easy listening and neurotic rhetoric, Das Vegas III pushes harder on the casual savagery of the stand-up comedian. The fashion for extreme material having come back, often through comics who would claim either irony nor their real politics as a defence, Frank becomes a parody of those comics. His nastiness is matched elsewhere - exceeded, as he avoids those topics that crowd out wit on panel shows. When he drops the mask for brief moments, such as when he warns the audience that there will be offensive material, he appears sincere and warm.

This clarifies the satirical aspects of the persona. And so Frank dives deeper, evoking the Weimar Republic, tired 1970s comedy, the vicious rumours about Sinatra's behaviour: getting the laughs, but not cheaply or easily.

Sanazi's genius reminds that shock can be more than itself, that it can be cognitive dissonance, the experience of being forced to re-evaluate prejudices, or be confronted with uncomfortable truths. And in the best tradition of satire, the intelligence of the critique is stealthy slid into the laughter.

No comments :

Post a Comment