Dave Spikey: Overnight Success

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

As the Peter Kay juggernaut rolls unstoppably on, conquering Britain's biggest venues, his Phoenix Nights co-star Dave Spikey is making his own, quieter way across the country.

Comparisons between the two are inevitable, as they are both graduates from the same school of comedy. In fact, they probably did each other's homework, given the striking similarities between their respective blend of homely northern observations and swaggering pub jokes.

But it's not just a common outlook, they also share the same fans (there's a slight frisson of excitement when Spikey merely mentions, in passing 'garlic bread') - and even the same gags.

Perhaps it's no surprise, given that the two write together, that they both want to perform the best lines. But comedy shouldn't be a franchise, and seeing both shows in the same fortnight certainly evokes feelings of déjà vu.

There's an unfortunate streak of familiarity running through the set - do we really need another comic from the north-west doing a gag about relocating Commonwealth events to Moss Side? - and you're never a few minutes from a generic gag that could grace the pages of a contemporary joke book.

For Spikey is traditional at heart, as demonstrated by the way he launches his set with an S Club 7 number - a naff and unsubtle way to enliven an audience, however 'ironically' done.

This is a shame, because Spikey is a warm and natural performer - always in control, yet more than relaxed enough to make it seem like a breeze. And this was just a few hours after a brush-with-death car crash.

A piss-take of the laden, emotionally void poetry people send to newspaper obituary columns perfectly showcased his talents for timing and stagecraft, transforming the dull into the ridiculous with the smallest of inflections.And when his show meanders into quirkier, more personal anecdotes, it's a joy. His own, genuine experiences - many involving the menagerie of animals he owns - prove a more fertile area for real wit than the forced structure that a traditional joke requires.

But his routine seems driven entirely by the need to maximise the jokes-per-minute ratio. No bad thing in itself, and the show is solidly funny for those not over-familiar with comedy, but he really ought to be more discerning about where these laughs come from.

It's all part of what's fast becoming a post-alternative trend in comedy that deems shared jokes or observations OK provided they are not racist or sexist. This 'New Traditional' approach cannot be healthy for the state of stand-up, even if the practitioner is as skilful as Spikey.

If you can't get one of the rare-as-hens' teeth tickets to Peter Kay, Spikey could prove a suitable alternative. But that's probably the only way he could ever honestly be described as alternative.

Steve Bennett
Cambridge
February 5, 2002

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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