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Josh Widdicombe: If This Show Saves One Life…

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

As I write this, I’m interrupted by an email that tells me that the Malcolm Hardee awards people have shortlisted Josh Widdicombe for their ‘most likely to make a million quid’ award. It’s a prediction very hard to oppose, for if he can maintain the well-crafted, broad-appeal pedantry of this assured debut, this hangdog youngster, old beyond his years, will surely follow in the footsteps of Michael McIntyre.

His is the brand of observational comedy that’s easy to dismiss, but hard to master, taking a slightly sarcastic look at the world around him and pointing out logical flaws we never saw before. Yes, why IS a gravy boat called that?

His humour largely comes from an intractable logic, that allows him to form comebacks to irritations you never even realised were irritations, from the stupidity of Neighbourhood Watch to the service in Wagamama.

Naff leisure activities seem to be a particularly rich seam. Bowling, LaserQuest, arcade games, Madame Tussauds, narrowboat holidays and visits to the National Railway Museum in York all feature – and all fall short of what Widdicombe wants from his attractions. There seems to be a regret that he has to publically scold them for their unacceptable facets, but standards are standards.

There are some already-classic routines here; his description of Argos Extra is especially fine, revolving around a couple of fantastic jokes. In a packed set, there are a couple of flatter moments, and his collection of tacky souvenirs is overplayed, but he has a winning way with words, and the strike rate is impressively high.

His timing is spot-on, and he has nice banter with the audience, quick-thinking and engaging, but knowing when to stop. It helps counter what could be a smugness to his material, which is never far away but never actually materialises.

Yes, Widdicombe’s safe and mainstream, but he’s very good at it, as his comedy trophy cabinet will attest. Only the most steadfast curmudgeon wouldn’t find something to enjoy in this most promising of debuts.

Review date: 24 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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