Do you know the best way to mulch a pope? It's for the good of the planet that you learn, according to Rob Newman
For many comedians, the focus is not what is said but the way that they say it. But Newman forces you to rethink everything we know about the First World War, the accepted orientation of the world, our approach to public transport and even the best way to build a wall. On an overheated Tuesday evening, the Greenwich Theatre was packed out with fans (although not bar staff) eager to see his unique mix of political and sketch comedy. Unlike the more seriously focused Mark Thomas - also playing at this first Greenwich Comedy Festival - who builds an entire show around one particular bugbear of the moment, the breadth of Newman's political and environmental messages are interwoven with more whimsical gems, such as a demonstration of the hitherto unrecognised sport of "fop tennis" and his signature ukulele playing. We did not anticipate leaving the theatre fully versed in how to escape an Iraqi hostage situation either.
Fans from his Mary Whitehouse days were reintroduced to Newman as an old man - as Peter Ligoe, former pub quiz champion - in a meandering sketch taking in a diverse range of factoids culminating in a pub shoot out, and featuring an adversary with merely the faintest whiff of being David Baddiel's character from the History Today sketches.
Seeing Newman on stage once more is a rare treat, and it is testament to his pervading wit and charisma that he played to a sell-out crowd in the early stages of an inaugural festival. He may have joked about the PR which claimed the comedy festival would help "put Greenwich on the map" but after this performance, maybe it wasn't so far fetched.
By Ruth Lang
Greenwich Comedy Festival runs until Sunday 13th September. Let us know what you think.