Bob Downe: Smokin'

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

If you go to Bob Downe’s show, I hope you like clapping.

Not because you’ll be making spontaneous demonstrations of appreciation, but because every second sentence from this needy, needy performer is soliciting an undeserved ovation.

By the end of the night, we’ve been urged to give a big hand to at least half the audience, all the venue staff, Australian chocolate bars, and various abstract concepts, each half a dozen times. The volunteer who helped him remove his Olympic-themed tracksuit top gets three rounds of applause for that challenging task alone.

Add to that the desperate pleas for affirmation (‘what do you think of the outfit?’) the countless times he raises his intonation or spread-eagles his arms in search of more applause, the exhortations for us to clap along with songs and the reflex response to smack hands together whenever music stops – and you end up with a heck of a lot of applause, every beat of which was asked for.

Heaven forbid he actually writes any material, when, like the world’s laziest compere, he can get a reaction just by requesting it.

He makes a few attempts at gags, most of which fall on such deaf ears, prompting him to berates us, part tongue-in-cheek, for not laughing enough. Then he spots something or someone and makes us applaud it again. But the jokes are either old or obtuse. For example, he strings along the suggestion he had an operation for – watch out, hilarity ahead – penis REDUCTION!!!!

Elsewhere, he expects laughs for the most obscure references. After smugly referencing ‘Andre Rieu in a Post Office’ the pause he leaves for a laugh is greeted with the shout: ‘Who’s Andre Rieu?’ He doesn’t explain.

With a single-handed cheese operation that puts Dairylea to shame, Australian Mark Trevorrow been peddling this act for nearly 30 years now, which is testament to just how far a little camp, self-deprecating charm goes.

Sure, there’s a guilty pleasure in seeing him, flouncing around in velour three-piece and floral cravat, karaoke his way through some Sixties lounge classics with insincere rictus grin and delivery so causal the words become a meaningless slur of consonants – but it’s a one-joke character. After one song he can only repeat it until fade.

Ask yourself this: Would you go and see Vic Reeves’s ‘pub singer’ persona in concert? If not, Downe’s unimaginative banter might be best shunned, too.

Review date: 21 Jun 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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