May 9, 2019 Theatre
Beloved “chaser” Paul Sinha avoids too much talk about his time on the telly during a stand up set focused largely on his coming out as a gay man.
A week ago, my friend told me that her elderly uncle accidentally split his knee open as he was rushing in with his cup of tea to the living room. Why? Because he heard The Chase’s theme song play at their pre-news slot of 5pm and could not bear to miss one second of the show. “He uses a cane, and that was probably the first time he’s ran in 10 years,” she said.
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Arriving at The Classic, you can see immediately that The Chase, and Paul Sinha (AKA the Sinnerman), one of the show’s chasers (quizzers) inspires die-hard fans. I myself have watched probably over 100 episodes, because it used to be part of my job, but also because it’s so bloody great. If you haven’t watched The Chase, you should know this: it’s charming as hell, the questions are very hard so it makes you feel like a certified genius if you know the answer, and it’s such an adrenaline thrill to see a team win, moreso than any other game show in existence, in my humble opinion.
Knowing nothing about Paul except the fact he’s my favourite quizzer on television, I was a tad surprised by his set. There were only a few obligatory jokes about his time on The Chase, even though he had an audience that would happily lap that shit up. Instead, the set’s narrative revolves around his arc of coming out, including his conservative immigrant parents’ response, first relationships and how his worlds of comedy and quizzing intersect.
The writing was tight, and rhythmic, a punchline every couple quips. That punchy style of humour is great for atmosphere – the laughs keep coming – and it also makes the lulls as he builds a story up feel weightier, which works particularly well on some serious subject matter that he clearly wants the audience to absorb and reflect on. Some jokes relied too much on stereotypes and his understanding what type of audience he was likely to host – and he was right, of course. So luckily for him, all of that came off fine.
Out of all the comedians I’ve seen so far at the Comedy Fest, Paul Sinha got the most genuine response from the (sold-out) audience, which is most definitely a result of being a minor daytime celebrity. There were a lot of head throwing, gleeful clapping, and turned heads to significant others: “did The Sinnerman just say that?” Having such a following seemed to smooth over any jokes which weren’t really that funny, or was fumbled clumsily in execution and suddenly made obvious how scripted everything was; it was smoothed over because the audience loved him.
He seemed to know it too, ending the show with, among other gracious things about going to see other comedians: “If you want a selfie, please meet me outside in 10 minutes.”
Paul Sinha is playing at The Classic until May 19 – hurry, tickets left for one show only.