tue 11/08/2020

Sunday Night Comedy, Lyric Hammersmith | reviews, news & interviews

Sunday Night Comedy, Lyric Hammersmith

Sunday Night Comedy, Lyric Hammersmith

David Baddiel ends his silence

Richard Herring has been hosting Sunday night comedy at the Lyric Hammersmith for several years. They happen sporadically on the last Sunday of the month, and have built up a loyal following. For 10 or 15 quid, and in a Frank Matcham theatre to boot, it's great value. The attraction lies partly in Herring’s ability as a compere to riff off the front row and get away with murder – almost literally in the case of last night: to unrestrained gales of laughter, he was wishing all manner of menace on a young woman who works in the City. There is also a cosy parochial flavour – there were jokes about local postcodes and the scarcity of trains on the Hammersmith and City line.

But the main attraction is the quality of the bill, and the quirky juxtapositions it throws up amid all the across-the-board boilerplate jokes about banking, jihadism, Popery and sex. In this case, Miles Jupp’s shtick was about being posh. You’d recognise Jupp most recently as Tom Hollander’s nice but prim curate in Rev. “I’m privileged”, he said, “not just to be here, but in general.” Nick Doody’s act was mostly a carefully constructed rant about middle-class parents and their gift for self-sanctification.

After the interval, Gary Delaney deployed his brilliant wordsmithery to push the envelope of bad taste, sometimes too far towards menstruation and nonces. He was more winning when the joke was on him - or on his Israeli flatmate to whom he hands all letters addressed to The Occupier. The laughs came in wave after wave and Baddiel in the wings may well have been wishing he’d not agreed to go on last as the mystery headline guest off the telly. Especially when he hasn’t been on the telly for so long and has, in his own words, “become less famous”.

There was a humility about him as he marched on with a suitcase which he opened so that six stickers on the lid faced the audience. Written on each were subjects he had stories on from what he called his Larry David life: childhood, books, sex, cats, family and showbiz. The audience’s job was to nominate a category to trigger a story. They were shy about picking the obvious one. “You’re avoiding sex,” Baddiel said. The same could not be said of him.

Baddiel always used to be comfortable talking about how he fills oceans of time taking advantage of himself

Baddiel has always seemed a conflicted comic. He became exceptionally famous in the 1990s in sketch comedy then a football chat show. Stand-up, a form of self-expression which works best when the performer hurls his personality out into the room, is a less natural medium for someone who prefers to keep it cerebral. There weren’t just quotations from Anna Karenina and Proust here; Baddiel was actually careful to name their eminent translators.

And then on the other hand there’s a lot of wank. Baddiel always used to be comfortable talking about how he fills oceans of time taking advantage of himself. Since he last shared, he’s gone away and become one of those smug parents in Doody’s line of fire. Having done something useful with his groin, after seven years away from the limelight, it slightly beggars belief that he’s still doing masturbation material. Perhaps it's the case that while fame may come and go, the arena bookings and TV gigs disappear, you can always put your money on the loyalty that exists between a comedian and his best friend.

  • Sunday Night Comedy continues on 31 October with David Schneider, Kevin Eldon and an unidentified musical comedian (possibly Bill Bailey)

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