sun 14/08/2022

Michael McIntyre, Wembley Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Michael McIntyre, Wembley Arena

Michael McIntyre, Wembley Arena

Middle-class stand-up laughs all the way to the bank

“Got a mortgage.” Thus spake Michael McIntyre last night. It’s an article of faith for McIntyre - an all but unique selling point - that he is one of us. He wears a suit to work and doesn’t think about al-Qaeda that much. How many other comedians do you come across who remind you even vaguely of you? Where most stand-ups are weird or ugly or angry or hairy or epically rude (or all of the above), McIntyre is groundbreakingly normal, boy-next-door bourgeois. The jokes are all about the things all of us do - in the shops, in the kitchen, the bedroom. But not in the office. In what other profession, he wonderfully observed, do you get summoned back by applause to put in an extra 10 minutes the moment you finish your shift?

This rock venue off the North Circular is McIntyre’s new place of work. It's one stop in a 50-date arena tour. That figure sound familiar? When one Michael cancels the O2, up pops another to pack the nation's hangars. Michael McIntyre may scoff at Michael Jackson in a warm-up gag, but their business plans look like two sides of the same very shiny coin.

The rise of McIntyre has been phenomenal. It seems like only yesterday that he was poking his head above the parapet on the Edinburgh Fringe. Now when he goes onstage he’s dwarfed by the upper-case letters of his own name. Above and behind there's a cinema screen flanked either side by two more screens tilting inwards. It’s like a Brobdingnagian dressing table, across which McIntyre camply skips, paces and chortles with a theatrical sense of the visual possibilities. His physicality is all about projection. A mime of a man towelling his undercarriage comes across beautifully at the back of the room. So does the sideways-on demo of a snooker player’s cueing action, which when pointed out to you does indeed resemble one man manually pleasuring another man behind him.

That’s a rare step away from hetero monogamy. In McIntyre’s world, sex may be thwarted by routine and bad breath, but it takes place safely within the happy home visited by footling anxieties and frustrations. Fellatio is a birthday treat or a reward for spending a fortune on a dress for the missus. When McIntyre goes off for an all-over massage, as recommended by his wife, he returns itching for hand relief. He will happily admit to taking advantage of himself.

This makes it sound as if McIntyre has a groin fixation. Rather the reverse, in fact. He closes the first half with a well honed routine about his distaste for the men who flap nakedly about the gym changing room. The laughter that greets it is all about recognition. And so it goes throughout the evening. Whenever his audience breaks into applause, it’s because they have quite unexpectedly seen themselves gurning absurdly in the mirror. We’ve all turned to register our disdain for bad drivers as we overtake them, played the ridiculous charade of choosing a wine in a restaurant, bought herbs and spices we never intend to use. And what of the squashed arm you don’t know what to do with in bed? This stuff would be beneath the notice of other comedians. McIntyre may tell only little truths, but they are truths in common ownership, and in his hands they’re gold dust.

The evening dips here and there. He possibly doesn’t have quite enough material for a full evening, and you sense the presence of padding. In terms of physical storytelling, the herbs and spices line up almost identically to the posh rugby thugs in his Live at the Apollo appearance beloved of YouTubers. And it’s about time he dropped his joke about looking like a fat Chinaman.

Will he, can he last? Schlepping lucratively around arenas where only the feeblest contact with the audience is possible, it’s difficult to resist the idea that he is comedy’s boy band, a favourite flavour to be cast aside for the next cuddly stand-up you can take home to meet the parents. Even if he does run out of foibles to be baffled by, by the end of his autumn tour McIntyre will be able to pay off his mortgage in a single month. And he'll have deserved it. There’s nothing very one-of-us about that.

Michael McIntyre's tour continues until 19 November. Details here. His DVD Hello, Wembley is released on 16 November. Order it here.

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I don't understand the people who don't like him. He's hilarious!!! And all the comedians who criticise him especially... "Michael McIntyre never uses any original material, he has no mind of his own. Now here's my impression of his entire show but I think mine's better." Hypocrites! Oh well - anyone with any sense knows he's legend, so...

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