Stephen Grant: Route 1
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
In the autumn of 2000, having purchased a car navigation system on an internet auction, Grant found himself in a rather difficult situation.
As a rule, there's little more tedious than listening to people moaning about their awful journeys. After all, the only thing of note about being stuck in a train tunnel, ten-mile tailback or departure lounge is the soul-sapping hours of unceasing boredom, so how can hearing it second-hand be any more interesting?
On that basis, a three-year-old story about travelling the length of Britain to buy a car stereo doesn't immediately sound the most promising of premises. It's hardly up there with crossing the globe to meet your namesake for absolutely no good reason.
Comic Stephen Grant had aimed to save around £1,500 by buying the top-of-the-range gadget second-hand on eBay. When he found out that collecting it would involve travelling from his home in Brighton to the Orkneys, he blanched. But he did the sums, and he reckoned he'd still make a tidy profit.
Thus begins an hour of anecdotes about broken-down cars, missed flights and hitchhiking to get his precious purchase home.
The stories really are as slight as they seem, just a collection of things that have happened to him. Slightly unusual events, and in quick succession, but nothing that would fall outside the experiences of anyone in his audience.
Grant's gags, too, can tend towards the blindingly obvious. When he sees a motorway sign that says "Delays possible until June," the audience could probably all chime the depressingly inevitable punchline in unison.
But, remarkably, this tale does work. And it does so because of Grant's fantastic stage technique. His fast-paced, excited delivery simply proves irresistible as he enthuses about his stereo and the nice people he met.
He banters easily with the audience, too, proving that he can think as quick as he talks, and ensuring that everyone's along for the ride. The last person I saw command a crowd so well with material that was so ropey was Peter Kay, and he seems to have done all right for himself.
Grant's Gormanesque touch is to see whether he did actually save any money on the stereo once all the added costs of his ill-fated journey are included.
It's a decent enough device, but cack-handedly executed, with Grant handing over Monopoly money to a designated punter as the costs ratchet up. But at no time can the audience see how he's doing against the target, robbing the show of some easily-achievable tension.
Despite the many flaws, Grant's an obviously talented raconteur, and should he ever get something of substance to talk about, he could easily pull out into comedy's fast lane.