Mum Wants A Bungalow tour

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

The last time I saw Peter Kay perform in London, it was to a noisy and uninterested West End pub as part of some half-witted scheme to sell more powdered soup by performing comedy to people who didn't want to hear it.

Less than two years later and he's playing to 3,787 people a night in 12 sold-out gigs at the Hammersmith Apollo - not to mention the rest of his phenomenal tour. There's only one way to get so successful, so fast - and that's by giving people exactly what they want. And Kay certainly does that.

By some measures, he could be considered no great comedian - especially when it comes to originality. But what he is is an entertainer without equal.

There's a nod to his lack of invention as he opens the show with some good old-fashioned pub gags, though at least he has the nous to play with it a bit, inviting audiences to yell out the punchlines to these warhorses.

Such golden oldies litter the show, perhaps the most antiquated being: 'They call it a bungalow, because when they was building it, they said 'bung a low Roof on it'.' No doubt he's saving his top-drawer material about his nasally-challenged dog and his wife's West Indian excursions for his next tour.

But jokes aren't really what Kay's about, even though he does plenty of them. His forte is observations, and observations of the most universal kind. He's at his best recreating the minutae of lower-middle class family life, creating vivid pictures from a childhood the audience didn't realise they shared.

And although he mocks that world, it's really a celebration of simpler pleasures that triggers warm memories, along with the laughs of recognition.

It's beautifully constructed, too, with the jaunty monologue forever cross-referencing earlier observations, as well as dropping in the unlikely catchphrases from his last show. 'Garlic bread? Put big light on 'ave it'. Well, he has got maximise sales of the sloganed T-shirts in the interval - and every familiar phrase does produce a rousing cheer from the audience.

In fact, there's something of a game show feel to the whole evening, from those punchlines we shouted at the start to the karaoke version of Danny Boy we sing at the end. Sheer entertainment that gets the whole crowd going, it's that consummate entertainer again doing everything he can to ensure the paying punters are having a good time.

But, to sound a curmudgeonly note, this is sometimes at the expense of comedy. The mere mention of cheap quiz show Bullseye, for example, raises the Roof thanks to Kay's mastery of the crowd. But the observations that followed were mostly of the unexceptional 'what use is a speedboat in Tamworth?' variety, which just about any hack comic could have come up with - and many have.

Mostly, though, he avoids going where others have been, and his observations are so devastatingly spot-on that you forgive the lack of cleverness. Routines about late-night cab rides and the erratic behaviour of elderly relatives particularly hit home, though it's the whole universe he so powerfully and lovingly evokes that demolishes all but the coldest cynic.

And it's all combined with an inexhaustible supply of on-stage charm, an infectiously effusive manner and an undeniable natural talent that should mean he'll never have to go back to selling powdered soup again.

Steve Bennett
January 30, 2002

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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