Michael McIntyre: Showtime – review

Thursday, September 27 2012

It's been three years since Michael McIntyre embarked on a UK tour. Well ...? Any good?


Michael McIntyre

BANG! Straight in. First 10 minutes and Michael McIntyre has reasserted his position as the UK's biggest stand-up. It's a dick-swingingly assured opening, about Britain's new-found pride in itself following the Olympics and the more bizarre events that took place. People are already feeding off him, not necessarily in hysterics but enough to create a cycle where they're still laughing by the time he's moved onto the next gag. He's podgier and less skippy than usual, and the ultra-sensitive mic is picking up every suck and heave of his sinuses, sending them swilling out into the belly of the whale that is the O2 Arena. But the pace of the gags remains. The message is clear – McIntyre's back.

As an arty farty type I'm not supposed to like McIntyre, but as I wrote a couple of years ago, I do. I don't like watching him on telly, where I find him (and many other good stand-ups) boring and over-edited, and I've heard more anecdotal evidence of him being an arsehole than is healthy. But as a stand-up he pleases me greatly.

Would this show convert any sceptics? Possibly. Some routines definitely would – one about watching his wife get dressed, and the show's finalé about the dentist appointment that gets wildly out of control, are irresistible slabs of stand-up.

There's definite complacency in places though. Many of his chosen subjects are clichéd – which doesn't matter if you make them funny enough, but on occasions he relies solely on his exaggerated storytelling style when it's crying out for the tiniest glimpse of originality. Or a joke, either will do. Take "the drudgery of sex in a long-term relationships" or "the Queen's face is on all our money". All of a sudden, time has turned in on itself and it could be any point in the last 40 years. People have paid big sums of money to see this, it's virtually an insult to throw old rubbish like that at them. Although in fairness there is also a fair bit of "the differences between men and women" material – the ultimate comedy cliché – and much of that is very funny.

A routine about the jubilee also feels misjudged as it already feels dated – he may have been away from the stage for a little while, but he should realise that all the other comics have covered that subject comprehensively. Besides, the Olympics has basically formatted all memories of other large-scale national events.

In short, this is a show where McIntyre takes familiar themes but makes them funnier than most other comics are able to. Ditto his ability to keep sustained laughs rolling on. The most successful parts tend to be the longer stories – such as the dentist appointment, also his playing hide and seek with his children, and his unfortunate red carpet photo. I also loved the slightly stranger "phonetically pronounced names" routine.

The over-riding feeling here is one of certainty. I ideally like to have the thrill of unpredictability in my culture, but that's not what you get with McIntyre. This isn't so much an artistic triumph as an extremely successful shopping trip. People have gone in knowing what they'll get, he's given it to them, and they've left. Transaction achieved.

So the juggernaut continues. McIntyre ushered in the age of the "superstar comedian" and Showtime consolidates his place at the top. He's got 17 shows to perform in London alone (tonight's is show 2) as part of this tour, which is a colossal display of unit-shifting for a stand-up comic. But hats off, with all that pressure and expectation, despite some disappointing parts, he delivered.

4 stars

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