Greg Davies’s debut DVD is a superlative piece of stand-up storytelling, a brilliantly entertaining collection of funny real-life stories ramped up to hilarious though a purposeful, joyously emphatic delivery. It was probably the best show of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe (running Russell Kane into close second) and it has only improved from polished and expanded over the subsequent tour.
The title comes from a real-life incident when the Inbetweeners star and partner-in-Klang Marek Larwood found themselves laughing like drains while on a Spanish holiday as they catapulted cheesy snacks into the bemused face of an Iberian canine. 'This is as good as life gets,’ he thought to himself – coming to the obvious conclusion that such spontaneous fun should be celebrated as the essence of existence.
But although this is a upbeat, positive show, it’s no fluffy love-and-hugs schmaltz. There’s a robust mocking tone, at his own expense as well as others, and just a hint of some of the darker times he experienced during his days as a dissatisfied drama teacher. But clearly stand-up turned his life around, so he’s damned if he’s going to be grumpy about anything now.
As foreshadowed by the gallery of cringe-inducing family photos that precede the show, this is, broadly, a dash through Davies’s life from primary school up to being an out-of-shape middle-aged man exasperated by the youth culture encapsulated by Flo Rida’s desecration of a disco classic.
Davies’s school days are remembered for the strange nicknames he and his classmates all got lumbered with, on the flimsiest of premises. Nor was it confined to his school, as he picked up a few more bizarre examples over the course of the tour – and the audience at this recording at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, add a couple of their own, too.
When a teacher himself, he continued to observe the peculiar behaviour of schoolchildren, and there are some real characters – good and bad – in his recollections. The varying emotions of affection, frustration and disillusionment that enliven these anecdotes certainly have the ring of authenticity.
He’s got so many stories, plenty don’t fit into the narrative, so cleverly employs an overspill 'book of pithy tales' to offer a brisk flavour of some yarns, wittily under-explained, that couldn’t quite make it, and so providing a change of pace from the longer routines.
Davies eventually cast off the chains of his 9-3.30 job and brought into the ‘carpe diem’ mentality. It’s an attitude perfectly encapsulated by his charmingly bonkers septuagenarian father, who in Davies’s words ‘exists purely to amuse himself’ - and is thus the source of a many a staggeringly daft anecdote. The unconventional, yet clearly affectionate, relationships in the Davies family produces a seam of comedy gold.
This culminates in a genuinely touching conclusion that brings a little lump to the throat, will deftly avoiding being corny. Davies fires cheeseballs only at dogs, not his audience in this unflaggingly entertaining performance.
- Greg Davies: Firing Cheeseballs At A Dog was released on Universal DVD on Monday. Click here to buy from Amazon at £12.93.