17 Aug 2010

Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Leeds

Seeing Michael McIntyre perform live on two separate occasions in the same week, in the same city, is an interesting experience. Firstly on the Tuesday, it's an intimate gig up above The Library pub (really good venue for stand-up by the way); then, on the Thursday, it's for the filming of the latest episode of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow for the BBC at the Grand Theatre.

Really intriguing to see him on the Tuesday: small clubs haven't been his stomping ground for some time now, and to an extent you can tell. Dan Nightingale is the warm-up act who is more comfortable in these surrounds; a quality circuit comic who puts on a really good show.

Michael McIntyre then takes to the stage. It's not a mesmerising or flawless performance by any means, and much of the show consists of him asking the audience to tell him all about what's been going on in Leeds, so that he has some topical material for his TV show later in the week. It brings to mind someone like David Cameron travelling up north and doing his best to click with the quaint northerners. But then, to be fair, McIntyre has a job to do - and there are snippets of extremely well observed material that remind you why he became so popular. And there is something, just something about him, you can just see why he is made for TV. The shiny suit, the shiny hair, even the facial expressions, everything points to TV. You don't want to go all Simon Cowell and use phrases like star quality, but it's along those lines.

And so it proved on the Thursday, at the much bigger venue of the Grand Theatre. He was a consummate pro; the cameras started rolling, he had a job to do, and he did it. Even to the extent of assertively telling the audience to behave for re-takes (an innocent word like "Manchester" can cause an idiot Yorkshireman to boo - it's a bit like Pavlov's dogs - which can prove a problem when you're filming for a TV show). The Library gig had clearly been a useful exercise, and he'd successfully polished the material over the two days preceding the Grand Theatre show.

It was a very good night of comedy. Having said that, the first performer, Jack Whitehall, was the weakest on the night. A pastiche of Russell Brand but less witty. You suspect he'll become a TV personality or celebrity, rather than a top-drawer stand-up. Not great; perhaps he's still in the process of finding his own voice.

But the remainder of the bill went down a storm. Next up was the dry wit of Mike Gunn. His is the kind of deadpan comedy where, on the face of it, the world is a pretty rubbish place: men don't understand women (and vice versa) and we should all just stop pretending to make the effort. But you just know that below the surface there is a warmth pushing to get out (it doesn't).

Next up, Andi Osho was extremely impressive. Her comedy is fresh and edgy but warm-hearted, her charm carries the audience along. She's one to watch, I think.

Then it was Canadian comic Sean Collins: arguably the class act of the evening. Superb. Just brilliant material, and fantastically delivered. He somehow manages to make a British audience warm to him while making digs at his host country. "I love Britain," he says. "Everything is rubbish - but nobody seems to care." (Or something along those lines.) He continues: "This is the only country in the world where you buy a ticket for one form of transport and you end up travelling on something completely different. People holding train tickets are ushered onto buses, and they don't seem to mind." He does have a point.

Ardal O'Hanlon was the headline act. And again, he was extremely good. He's honed his stuff over a number of years now, and you can tell; he's a classy performer. "Someone once gave me a piece of good advice," he says, "which was to live every day like it's your last. And he was right, it's good advice. I always walk around with an oxygen mask on my face and rosary beads in my hand."

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