sat 27/02/2021

Alan Carr, touring | reviews, news & interviews

Alan Carr, touring

Alan Carr, touring

Great to have him back live, but shame about the material

Alan Carr: chatty man has developed into a great physical performer

It has been four years since Alan Carr toured with a live show, and he's been much missed from the circuit. From his first appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe when he entertained audiences with tales of his past life as a call-centre worker and being the woefully non-sporty son of a football-manager father, he was destined for stardom.

It has been four years since Alan Carr toured with a live show, and he's been much missed from the circuit. From his first appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe when he entertained audiences with tales of his past life as a call-centre worker and being the woefully non-sporty son of a football-manager father, he was destined for stardom.

Television appearances – game shows, quizzes and chat shows – followed, and despite his huge recent success I think producers have not yet managed to find the right vehicle for the ever-smiling and hugely engaging Carr. He follows in a line of a certain archetype of gay TV hosts (including Larry Grayson and John Inman) who, in or out of the closet, went on to become national treasures; but he's not as spontaneously witty as Graham Norton, or as waspish as Paul O'Grady, or as naughtily saucy as Julian Clary.

Carr trades on being nice, theatrical and shriekingly outraged, either at his own shortcomings or his guests' stories on his Channel 4 chat show, Chatty Man. And to think he once objected to my description of him as camp...

He also has lots of comedy smarts and his new show, Spexy Beast, which I saw at Wembley Arena, was well received. The audience demographic was interesting – a few young gay men in a vast swathe of straight couples aged from twentysomething to fiftysomething, with a smattering of groups of middle-aged ladies declaring their love for him. “You're wasting your time, love,” comes his affectionate but lightning-quick response.

It's mostly annoyingly anodyne observations, things such as supermarket self-checkouts, poop and scoop and energy-saving lightbulbs

His sexual preference, so germane to Carr's professional persona, is acknowledged, but never directly named. He talks of visiting Provincetown in Massachusetts (which has a large gay population) but doesn't tell the audience why, and most are left in the dark as to its significance. And he also makes a big deal of telling us that his dog isn't a yappy chihuahua or the like.

But then, so many things are mentioned without either a story or a joke, or indeed a punchline. In a two-part show in which Carr is on stage for an hour and a half, the arc of subjects for his observational comedy goes from vajazzling and swimming-pool wave machines to internet passwords and jury service, with much in between.

But it's mostly annoyingly anodyne observations, and when he mentions things such as supermarket self-checkouts, poop and scoop and energy-saving lightbulbs you realise it's material so impersonal that it could have happened to anybody. Or indeed been written by anybody...

There's stuff that suggests more work has gone into the act  – he says his mantra in any difficult situation is: “What would Bear Grylls do?” - and some cracking jokes. He could never have children with Gok Wan, he tells us, because think of the double-barrelled name they would be saddled with.

When he's talking about something that probably did happen (as opposed to something that clearly didn't) the show's tone changes and Carr becomes the warm and engaging comic that I remember fondly from Edinburgh several years back. He's developed a real talent as a physical performer, too, using the large Arena stage to its fullest extent, and his few interactions with the audience are gems. But too much of this is coasting.

  • Alan Carr is touring until 6 November
Carr trades on being nice, theatrical and shriekingly outraged

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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