Howard Read: 2005 Comeback Special

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

This is the comedy equivalent of Mike Yarwood going: ‘And this is me…’

After several years of playing second fiddle to his own animated creation, Howard Read has decided the time is right to reassert himself as a stand-up in his own right, with a back-to-basics ‘unplugged’ performance

His usual circuit set is full of overpowering energy directed at the most stupid of topics,  including his infamous sinagalongs about exotic vegetables. Such high-powered shenanigans would, however, prove a little overwhelming in the dank Underbelly of an early evening.

So, instead Read has decided to go down the path of the traditional, observational comedian talking of his own experiences. After all, as he says, ‘there just aren’t enough self-obsessed comedians on the Fringe’.

It’s not, he admits, a style he finds easy, coming from a stable and repressed middle-class family, not accustomed to discussing their feelings. Read is nothing if not aware of his own failings, as proven by the commentary he often provides as to how he feels the gig is progressing.

Truth is, Read is much stronger as a cheesy gagsmith than an  eloquent raconteur, and it’s the one-liners that pepper the stories, however tenuously, that provide more laughs than the tales themselves.

You feel he’s aware of that, and that this is the first steps in the new direction he wants to take his comedy rather than the end of the journey. As the show progresses, he starts shedding the silliness that is his forte, initially for some fairly generic moans such as the state of the  railways, before easing into gradually  more weighty topics such as  the nature of nationalism, a friend’s funeral and the break-in which robbed him of £7,000 worth of computer kit.

None of this is taken too seriously, mind. Even though he does have a good old rant about those few things that do get his goat, they are always iced with a layer of flippancy to sweeten the deal.

Stylistically, he’s now between the two stools of gags and observation. It remains a spirited performance, although now with some focus, and the gags, though daft as always, can be attached to a  story, so giving a semblance of structure.

Read is always entertaining company, and this show is no exception. It’s solidly amusing, rather than memorable, but does at least prove he can cut it without the cute, roughly-drawn sidekick.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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