Michael McIntyre: Showtime

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The material is moulded by state-of-the-art robotics; precision engineering ensuring that nothing is out of place. It’s the video introduction to Michael McIntyre’s new arena tour, a fantasy montage showing his sharp suit being clamped into place by cybernetic technology, but the metaphor for his perfectly-honed stand-up is irresistible.

The intricate care that lies behind the routines he delivers with his familiar super-confident breeziness make for an almost bulletproof show. McIntyre may have his detractors for his lack of edge – just about every wet-behind-the-ears new act with ten minutes’ stage time under their belt seems to have a snide word for him – but Showtime has, unquestionably, some of the funniest routines you’ll hear this year.

Yet erring on the side of safety means there are also a good chunk of observations and ideas which don’t seem particularly fresh, so holding him back from achieving a beginning-to-end brilliance, despite the virtuosity of his finest material.

For instance, he starts with the Olympics, which provide the opportunity to repeatedly use a triumphant ‘Team GB!’ cry as a feelgood oratorial device as well as provoking workaday comments dressage being for ‘gay horses’. And on the Jubilee, thoughts about the octogenarian Queen being forced to stand in the rain for the river pageant, or Prince Philip feigning an illness to get our of any more ‘celebrations’ seemed common at the time, let alone months later.

It’s not the observations that gets the laughs, but McIntyre acting out the moves, whether it be Grace Jones’s hula-hooping or those camp horses. The Games, especially, gives him free rein to scarper around the stage like an excited child, even though his trademark skipping seems to be largely curtailed in this show. Perhaps it was the source of just one too many jibes at his expense…

For a man known for his quotidian material, there’s a touch more surrealism than normal too. The Queen indulging in unlikely activities is no great jump, but his routine about names with alternative spellings – like Steven or Stephen – becomes a symphony of odd noises, made hilarious though repetition and slight variation.

It’s a technique he uses to devastating effect several times in the show, and never more in the superlative closing segment about a trip to the dentist gone wrong. This brilliant routine is worth the ticket price alone, with its graphic, often slapstick, imagery. With his mouth numbed by anaesthetic he can’t make himself understood in a nightmarish series of health indignities he can’t fully grasp. It’s almost Carry On Kafka.

Making himself the brunt of some of his routines plays well, especially to the female half of audience, thanks to great routines about how what an idiot he is which apply, by extension, to all men. His catalogue of domestic niggles about tidying the laundry or the dirty dishes will certainly resonate through relationships everywhere – and wittily described.

His family life is well-mined; from the indignity his wife suffers in putting on a pair of tights, to some fun stories about entertaining his two children: Lucas, seven, and Oscar, five. The personal touch helps McIntyre stay the right side of the line between sharing universal experiences and becoming mundane. Fine flourishes in writing – for example in the otherwise familiar niggles of undertaking an online purchase – further help elevate the night.

To complain about Michael McIntyre not being cutting edge is to complain about Stewart Lee not doing musical parodies; it’s just not what he does. But in broad-appeal arena-filling stand-up, he remains the king – and Showtime only cements that position.

Review date: 27 Sep 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: O2 Arena

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