tue 21/11/2017

John Bishop, Artsdepot | reviews, news & interviews

John Bishop, Artsdepot

John Bishop, Artsdepot

Parochial concerns and universal truths from Liverpudlian comic

John Bishop: his comedy charts his suburban, middle-class life

John Bishop, who is from Liverpool, used to sell drugs for a living (insert own joke here). Actually the former sales and marketing executive for a pharmaceutical firm gets there first and makes a reference to the kids he grew up with: “Some of them ended up in the same industry, but they didn’t have Bupa.

The line is typical Bishop: subtle, sardonic and self-referential. Actually this show is incredibly self-referential, sometimes almost Pooterish in its detail about the comedy career he started after giving up the day job, life with his teenage sons and his love in roughly equal measure for Elvis and Liverpool Football Club. It’s totally lacking a broader world view - even his observations about parenthood remain parochial rather than universal truths - but one would have to be a real curmudgeon not to laugh because Bishop has an all-important asset; he’s a great storyteller.

He also has an unaffected charm, which has helped bring him impressively far in what is still a very short career. Bishop started doing open-mic spots while still in his “proper” job in 2000 and but it was his 2007 Edinburgh Fringe show, the self-explanatory Stick Your Job Up Your Arse, that marked his departure from being a club-circuit comic into something more solid - one who could fashion an hour of comedy out of tales from his suburban, middle-class life. He now appears regularly on television and at last year’s Fringe received the marque of a top-grade comedian when he picked up an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for this show, Elvis Has Left the Building.

Its theme is living the dream, which clearly Bishop knows something about, and was prompted by the realisation last year that, even as a young-looking 42, he was the same age as Elvis Presley when he died on the lavatory in August 1977. It scared Bishop - “I didn’t take a dump for five days” - and caused him, he says, to look at his life. He started going to the gym and buying inappropriate footwear, and became obsessed about impressing his sons. One of their friends’ dads is a digger driver and they all jumped at the chance to visit him on a building site, but Bishop’s job brings indifference - “So I sat them down and did a PowerPoint presentation.” There are some very slight anecdotes parading as routines here, but enough well crafted punchlines to keep one interested.

The show feels overstretched at two hours and Bishop isn’t always quick-witted enough to mine the comedy gold that his interaction with the audience throws up. The copious football references may whizz past some ears and, judging by the occasional dodgy joke about his wife and pornography that survive here, the comic hasn’t entirely left his club act behind.

But the extended section, complete with video, about Bishop realising his boyhood dream - of playing (in a charity match) for Liverpool at Anfield - is infectiously joyous and defies any cynicism. Enjoy life and take your opportunities when they arise, he says. And that message, at least, is universal.

Book for John Bishop's tour till 6 May

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