Sean Lock Live
Show type: Tour
Star of Channel 4's 8 out of 10 Cats and host of TV Heaven Telly Hell and the groundbreaking BBC sitcom 15 Storeys High, Sean Lock is back on tour again.
Described by Ricky Gervais as one of the most influential British stand-ups of the past 10 years, Sean is also the winner of a coveted British Comedy Award for Best Live Performer.
There’s not a lot of hoopla about a Sean Lock show. No showbiz oomph, no swaggering attitude, just a clean-cut bloke in a smart suit chatting calmly away in his suburban deadpan.
This is not visceral comedy, but cerebral, in which the quality of the writing speaks for itself. That’s not to say Lock’s so clever-clever his material soars over anyone’s head – he admits to only one A-level himself – but neither does he insult anyone’s intelligence. The gags are accessible, yet moulded by an expert craftsman. You can’t help but admire the handiwork, but he’s damn funny, too.
His jokes are all firmly rooted in insightful observation, which he spins out with magnificent imagination. Yet he also shows a well-judged restraint, so ensuring that the surreal elements seem almost plausible, or that the enjoyable bursts of intolerance come from an understandable frustration rather a theatrically exaggerate d anger.
The depth of his inventiveness is best demonstrated in a couple of seemingly trivial anecdotes. Buying a mattress with a suspicious stain, he lodges a complaint, reeling of a catalogue of unlikely scenarios which could have caused such discolouration. Then, commenting on the ubiquitous DVD advisory notice ‘contains mild peril’, he lists an increasingly hilarious number of real-life events for which that warning would be apt. Both routines contain gag after brilliant gag, packed in tight succession. From seemingly weak premises, these two segments alone pack in more punchlines than some lesser comics manage in a career.
He confesses to a tendency to taking things too far, a handicap in life but a godsend for a comedian digging for original material. When he’s not contriving scenarios that will lead to a bombardment of punchlines, he’s taking his time to regale us with examples of this dysfunctional behaviour, making his outsider status abundantly clear.
There are a few lulls; routines which are more wry matters of interest than gut-bustingly hilarious, but Lock’s never less than engaging, and his off-beat ideas are always worth hearing, even if they haven’t yet crystallised into the distinctive bon mots which are his stock in trade.
Lock’s inspired brilliance will come as no surprise to comedy connoisseurs, but now he’s finding a new audience. Say what you like about panel games like 8 Out Of 10 Cats, but it means he can fill 600-seat theatres – a luxury his critically-acclaimed but little-watched sitcom 15 Storeys High never afforded him.
The show comes with its own commentary, with Lock modestly passing mention on how he’s doing, or self-consciously noting: ‘An incredible amount of my act revolves around pubs...’ It adds to his everyman delivery, a laid-backstyle no doubt crafted during barstool chats in all those boozers he mentions.
The subdued approach he fosters is brilliantly destroyed near the end of the show with a theatrical flourish that comes as a real surprise to the audience. Or at least those members of it that haven’t got the DVD of 2001’s We Know Where You Live Amnesty benefit and seen his performance on that. It’s one a very few bits of his more tried and tested material that gets another airing for this bigger crowd, but it does produce a significantly more excitable atmosphere for the closing minutes of the show, an unforgettable comedy moment for ticket-holders and certainly more fodder for his running annotations on the gig in hand.
It’s a great finale to 90-odd minutes of fuss-free stand-up at its best, with Lock proving time and time again his masterful ability to generate genuinely unique ideas, then distil them into perfect, witty lines. Why haven’t you got your ticket yet?
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Oxford, September 14, 2007
Date of review: Sep 2007