Peter Kay

Peter Kay

Date of birth: 02-07-1973

Peter Kay Live

Review of his comeback stand-up tour, from the first of many nights at the O2

As if dozens of arena dates stretching into 2025 weren’t enough to prove how much the public loves Peter Kay, the generous standing ovation he received on his first night at London’s O2 before he’d uttered a word said it all. That fans had waited for 12 years for the chance to see him – and the fact some undisclosed family health problem scuppered the last planned tour – only added to the sense of occasion.

But aside from looking trimmer, it was as if he’d never been away. What’s a decade or so for a comedian for whom culture peaked at Mud’s Tiger Feet and the ‘finger of Fudge’ advertising jingle? Kay’s cosy nostalgia is the epitome of that notion that things were better, simpler and more innocent back in the day, and he’s almost as conservative when it comes to his own act.

In fact, much of the first half felt as if the ChatGPT artificial intelligence machine had been asked to generate the optimal Peter Kay routine, dropping in bygone references, sharing generic pub gags and leading a singalong through TV theme tunes. This comedy magpie spends the first 20 minutes or so without using a line of his own writing, instead taking scraps of popular culture to build a nest we can all feel comfortable in. The crowd enjoy going through the motions and especially the friendly, ad-libbed mockery as he scans a camera across the audience (‘like seeing yourself in the window at Dixons’) to find his targets.

He plunders his own back catalogue, too, with a few nods to catchphrases past, including an amusing way of getting ‘garlic bread’ back into the conversation.

But absorbing so much from what’s already out there means his material can feel generic. How many middle-aged comics have started routines with: ‘If you’d wanted to send a dick pic in my day…’? And when he mocks the video to Lionel Ritchie’s Hello, it’s hard to overlook the fact the reference point is 39 years old.

Kay also seems strangely listless in telling some of this: a routine about knowing Eric Clapton takes a dull meander to get to the crux, which is uncharacteristically undersold. And his version of a story about getting locked out of a hotel room that also featured in Paddy McGuinness’s autobiography doesn’t pop as effervescently as you’d hope from Britain’s most successful comedian at a landmark gig.

A rare glimpse of personal material makes it into this first section, as he talks a little about his obsessive tendencies. And the show comes alive when first-hand stories come to the fore in the second half, whether it’s hilarious tales of his brief stint working in a funeral parlour or the indignities of being treated for kidney stones, showing his full abilities as the comic Everyman.

There’s a huge chunk of sentimentality, too, as he recalls the recent death of his gran, whose malapropisms contributed so much to his act over the years. That she died at 96 invites him to draw parallels with the Queen.

But such borderline schmaltz is forgotten as Kay hurtles towards his finale, with all the glitzy, if cheesy, showmanship of a Butlin’s redcoat, but writ ever-so large. This chunk starts with him dividing the room into sections, getting us to quack and moo – leading to an unexpected namecheck for Stewart Lee, who he jokingly thanked for providing the routine. How many of Kay’s crowd know of Lee’s work, I wonder?
His (or possibly ‘the internet’s’) misheard lyrics make a comeback before a showstopper that the whole audience are sworn to secrecy not to disclose. Suffice it to say, it properly utilises the size of the venue, which so few comedians acknowledge. It’s a memorable, fun spectacle which cements Kay’s status as an entertainer extraordinaire, whatever the shortcomings of his stand-up.

»Peter Kay​ tour dates and tickets

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Published: 19 Dec 2022

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