Pleasance Dome, Friday night, 11pm. I arrive early (or so I thought) for Tim Key: Masterslut. The queue is already snaking all over the joint. I ask a member of staff where it starts and he points vaguely into the distance. I sigh.
‘Is this the queue for Tim Key?’ I ask a couple of women at the back. They smile and say yes and I reluctantly join the swollen ranks, disgruntled but nevertheless happy to be there.
After a few minutes, another member of staff appears by my side and declares the house open for Masterslut. To my astonishment and delight the queue begins to move in my direction: I had inadvertently joined the start of the queue! I would never have the balls to do that deliberately.
I sit down, front and centre, in the Masterslut audience. Key is already on stage. So is a bubble bath, with a bottle of Radox perched on its edge. Key is holding a red rose, dipping it in the foam and waving it about seductively. He is wearing a suit. My heart flutters. He makes eye contact with me. I smile sheepishly.
Key lopes off-stage and launches into his set. A projection appears on the wall in front of us. It’s a diagram of the audience with arrows and phrases surrounding certain seats: ‘shake hands’, ‘hug’, ‘give a sugar cube to this one’ and so on. Key proceeds to do just this, and I get a friendly handshake. Not exactly a hug or a sugar cube, but still something to write home about.
The poetry Key recites is sublime, so funny I laugh aloud in a completely unselfconscious way (which isn’t like me). ‘An ox? An ox? An ox? An ox? I could barely conceal my incredulity.’ The words are perfectly chosen, exquisite in their awkwardness, endlessly surprising. His timing is spot-on, the strained silences stretching out before startling resolutions take you unawares. It’s what’s in his delivery too; that slightly morose expression, that petulant drawl, the sometimes quite filthy language coupled with the cheeky face of a debauched-toddler. At one point during the show he recites a poem about a man who slaps his penis onto a supermarket conveyer belt. It transpires the man has misheard the cashier, ‘hauls’ himself back into his jeans, and bashfully hands over his rewards card. Magic.
The video clips Key plays throughout the show are hysterical, and when he plunges headlong into his bath (which he does a few times) an underwater image of him comes up on screen. Later, a clip reveals that the photo-shoot for a porn playing card featured earlier was in fact conducted by Key himself, and we get to see Key urging the model to get his knob out.
This is, quite simply, perfect stand-up; hilarious, intelligent and utterly original. There are just so many reasons to love Tim Key, and I got to add another one to my list that night: he gave me a hug AND a sugar-cube at the end. Bliss.
Tim Key: Masterslut, Pleasance Dome until 21 August, 11.30pm; Pleasance Courtyard 23-25 Aug, 11.15pm.