Lee Evans: Big

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Can 80,000 fans be wrong? That’s how many Lee Evans is playing to at the O2 Arena alone – plus the hundreds of thousands more across the country and on DVD.

But I found this to be two-and-a-half hours of the most obvious, bland and unfunny stand-up I’ve seen from a major act in a long time. Evans has never been cutting-edge – it’s unlikely he would be this popular if he were – but he seemed uncharacteristically light on charm, and even lighter on material.

It’s always going to be difficult to project much personality in an area this stupidly immense, especially when your stock-in-trade is the exaggerated expressions pulled on your silly-putty face. That’s hard to see from several hundred yards away in seats so high you need a Sherpa to get to, even with the aid of big screens.

The venue certainly offers its share of problems. The sound echoes around so much Evans might as well be performing in his bathroom, and unexpected laughs can erupt from odd quarters of the Dome, making for a very odd dynamic.

But that was nothing as to the problems of the dreary material. Parts of it were hack, repeating tired subjects and opinions so often done before, while others weren’t even that good, just a litany of moans you could here in any pub, let alone comedy club. It’s all very well being an Everyman comic, but surely you should think of things not every man has also thought of? The difficult task of the observational comic is to throw new light on mundane things the rest of us barely pay notice to. Evans just tells us what we already knew, with no twist or embellishment, save for an exaggerated physicality in the delivery.

Don’t you hate it when you get stuck behind a tractor? Aren’t automated phone lines annoying? Traffic wardens – what are they like? Footballers on 90 grand a week… bleedin prima donnas, they are. At times its like sitting in the back of a 16,000-seater cab as the driver vents his spleen.

Some of the whines seem particularly ungracious, the previously likeable, ordinary bloke coming across remarkably mean-spirited, getting unconvincingly angry at not being allowed as many plastic bags as he damn well likes at he supermarket, or berating menial workers like late-night Tesco shelf-stackers who get in his way. Sorry, my sympathy’s with the minimum wage night-shifter, not the millionaire entertainer.

His wife seems to get the brunt of it, though, in his grossly oversimplified ‘difference between men and women’ bit. He assures us at the end that he loves his life, to a huge collective ‘aah’, but the segment is so generic, it’s clearly not personal.

I’m dog-tired of comics telling me ‘you know what women are like, they remember every detail, then throw them up in arguments…’ What humour is there in unthinkingly repeating this lazy observation, which was never too astute in the first place? To appropriate another well-worn relationship line: If Evans doesn’t know what’s wrong with this – well, I’m not going to tell him…

After 24 years of marriage, his contribution to the pool of knowledge on the gender divide includes: women carry a lot of crap in their handbags, collect lots of bottles in the bathroom, and like shopping for clothes. Well, strike me down with a copy of The Naked Eunuch.

‘Have you ever noticed…?’ he keeps asking, desperate for validation that his truisms have any meaning. ‘You ever seen that…’ ‘What is it with…?’, ‘Why is it that…?’

Some of these are almost parodies of bad stand-up; especially his lengthy section on sport, when he repeats the same formula ad nauseum. ‘What is it with the javelin? Throwing a big pointy stick! That’s fucking ridiculous. You don’t get that in other sports. Imagine doing it in football. It’d be like: Urrrrgh.. Ow! What the fuck?!’ OK, I made that up, but substitute other sporting procedures, such as the caddy in golf or drinking in darts, transpose it to another sport, act it out with silly voices and bingo! A tedious set.

There’s an old adage that ‘it’s funny cos it’s true’ – and in fairness as he whips through the domestic material at relentless pace, Evans does get lots chuckles of recognition, and several blatantly engineered applause breaks, when he pauses just too long after a routine, providing a subconscious trigger to clap. He doesn’t storm it – which may well be impossible in this vastness, but he does OK.

Simply describing his material can’t do justice to his physicality – but neither can he, when he’s a tiny dot on stage, performing beneath a four-storey projection of himself. In a club, he’d probably get by on his considerable strength of personality, but here I found him simply dull.

Still, there’s no accounting for popularity, and this creative low in an otherwise creditable career isn’t likely to dent his ability to play record-breaking gigs or releasing bestselling DVDs. But surely there should be more imagination in comedy, even very mainstream comedy, than this?

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, October 7, 2008

Review date: 10 Oct 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.