Greg Davies: The Back Of My Mum's Head

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Let’s address the title first. While the name of Greg Davies’s last, excellent, show Throwing Cheeseballs At A Dog was an accurate representation of the central anecdote, The Back Of My Mum’s Head is more esoteric.

It turns out that it refers to the last thing the young Davies would see after being chastised for his odd behaviour. ‘It’s not normal, love,’ his mild-mannered mum would say, turning on her heels and walking off in exasperation.

Thankfully, though, those 44 years of not being normal – he’s not entirely changed his behaviour as he’s become what could laughably be called an adult – has given him a hugely fertile seam of stupid anecdotes, which he exploits to magnificent effect.

The density of stories is most impressive. While many comics spin out their tales seeking laughs in the details, Davies distils many his yarns down to only their funny essence, moving quickly from one tale to the next. A couple of times, he presents a series of tales as a Top 5 countdown – of his favourite involuntary noises, or most shockingly inappropriate lines he’s heard – the former being punctuated by the audience’s cacophonous, ill-timed attempt at the old Pick Of The Pops theme.

Foolish behaviour is just as likely to be celebrated than mocked, provided it comes from a place of child-like abandon. A vague theme of the show is that Davies resents the fact he’s had to grow up, and wants to remain that teenager confusing his mum.

Not that the former teacher likes actual youngsters, of course, just adults who behave like them. One of the items on the menu outlining the show is ‘discrediting children’, which he delivers as promised, along with a soundscape (largely for Davies’s own amusement that one) and ‘fun with a racist’ – a taxi-driver, naturally, whose ignorance towards different people is matched only by his ignorance towards pie composition.

Is it part of a comedian’s personality that means they attract more than their share of strange experiences – or are they simply better equipped to spot them and retell them? Either way, Davies doesn’t seem short of material, some of which seems too good to be true. He concedes that the minor details in a creepy tale from an American driving holiday make it sounds like it was written by Stephen King; while the pair of childhood mates he takes to a rock festival in a hideously misguided attempt to recapture their youth seem like a comic-book threesome: one giant, one tiny man, and one pencil-thin.

Davies is an outstanding storyteller, and while the writing is tight, his delivery has a loose confessional air. He seems genuinely excited to be brining the audience into his confidence, like close mates, even starting off by confessing to problems with his undergarments this evening. The cynic might wonder if he says this every night, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.

Actually, the mood is set even before the support act takes to the stage. Ed Gamble was delayed by a miserable rail service meltdown, and in voiceover Davies delights in the fact he’s shoving him straight on to the stage, 20 minutes later than planned, sweating and breathless after his run from the station. Still, Gamble – whose material is a good match for Davies’s self-deprecatory tales – deals with it well and slowly warms up the large audience with his tales of an intimate medical examination.

Davies himself doesn’t shy away from similarly ikky ground, and his stories can be charmingly horrific as he sugars the pill with his easy-going charisma. That also gets him over some bumps in the show around the three-quarters mark where the stories don’t quite hang together perfectly, although they remain very funny.

He over-eggs a reconstruction of a phone call between himself and his mother that shows their contrasting views on life, but it does come with a great punchline, courtesy of Davies’s ebullient father, who fans will remember from the previous show. Davies Snr makes a couple of appearances here, perhaps to recalibrate the meter of ‘normal behaviour’ and serve as a reminder of where Davies got his eccentricities from, even if watered down over the generation.

All is tied up smartly with a closing song, which sees Gamble return to the stage, in a hilariously humiliating guise. It’s a great conclusion to a uproarious night of anecdotes, told by a real pro, who rather than resting on his TV laurels is cementing his position of one of Britain’s finest storytelling comedians.

Review date: 13 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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