The adverts proclaim this as Peter Kay’s first live DVD in eight years. Not that he hasn’t released a title in time for most of the Christmases since then, repackaging the same old material to the annoyance of many of his fans.
However this is an actual new show; the one that has played to more than a million people on the road over the past 18 months or so, proving appetite for his brand of comedy is as strong as ever. And with popularity that immense, Kay sees no reason to change the formula, with the new material so close to the old as to be almost indistinguishable.
Cosy nostalgia remains his stock-in-trade, heavy with naff, half-forgotten brand names. The routine with which he starts the second half is pretty much just a list of chocolate biscuits, which could almost be a parody of his style. Comedians always get asked where they get their ideas, it seems Kay just has to nip down the Spar with a notebook. There’s admittedly a certain skill in getting people to laugh at little more than words they recognise – ‘big shop’, ‘Wiggles’, ‘Arctic Roll’, ‘Slush Puppies’ – though it’s disappointing if you want more depth to the comedy.
Similarly, routines about TV offerings are equally uninspired. How can you have a show called Embarrassing Bodies when the subjects are not embarrassed to go on national TV? That’s pretty much the level of the observation, but bolstered by his incredulous tone.
Yet there also glimpses of better things, normally first-hand stories such as visiting a dentist, or seeing his dad trap his testicles in a sun lounger. We can identify with these, but there’s added value in the storytelling, which is so often absent from the observational routines where he simply points out the obvious. Perhaps his most astute observation comes at the start, when he says this show is ‘20 minutes of comedy dragged out over a two-hour show’.
He also, clearly, something of a showman – or show-off depending on your point of view. He starts off by pointing a camera back at the audience, creating the sort of thing you might see on the Jumbotron at an American football game, and ends with a full on number living out his rock-and-roll fantasies.
This, especially, is strange to watch – the crowd go wild as if watching a musical god demonstrating an epic talent; but it’s Kay essentially playing air guitar to a backing track. OK, so who wouldn’t want to do this on the O2 stage if they had the chance? But it seems self-indulgent here, even though it created a great atmosphere in the arena at the time, especially after some of his more lacklustre routines.
Ever the shrewd penny-pincher, there are also no extras on this disc, unless you count ‘chapters’ and ‘subtitles’ – after all, it will surely sell well enough without them.
It can’t be denied that there are a few laughs over the show, even with the unambitious material, but it does seem like Kay is progressing backwards: the comedian who sprang to fame from pointing out things from lower-middle-class life that hadn’t quite been noticed now seems all-too familiar. The only real nostalgia now is for a time when Kay felt fresh.
- Peter Kay Live:The Tour That Didn't Tour Tour was released on Monday by Universal Pictures. Click here to order from Amazon at £13.99.