Sean Hughes: Leicester Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

In the seven years since he was last on tour, you might have thought Sean Hughes would have thought of plenty to say. After all, he was so eloquent at capturing the confused voice of a generation of early thirtysomethings caught between youth and adulthood all those years ago.

But for far, far, too much of this undisciplined two-hour show he struggles to find his way, with half-thought-out themes, too few jokes and an obsessive tendency to indulge in unexceptional audience banter. He’s been gigging since last summer, yet this still seems like a work in progress, with loose ideas in desperate need of structure.

It’s a shame not just for fans who would remember Hughes in his pre-Never Mind The Buzzcocks stand-up prime, but because he still shows brilliant flashes of what he is truly capable of, which serves only to show up how lacklustre the rest of the show is.

Midway through the second half, his keen mind comes alive as he talks with honesty and insight about his life as a still-unmarried fortysomething who still can’t quite grow up. Even though he notices the onset of aging, he still finds himself dating exuberant, uncynical 25-year-olds to whom he’s dreadfully mismatched, makes mischief where he can and struggles to behave himself with the freedoms that living alone offers.

This – and a fascinating account of being in Sri Lanka as the Boxing Day tsunami struck two years ago – is thoughtful, mature stand-up – with a point, with laughs, and with sincerity.

Alas, the 90 minutes preceding it, is almost all empty padding. He spends some time reading the local newspaper, and complaining how parochial the Leicester Mercury is compared to his life as a sophisticated urbanite. He admits he’s just chewing the fat, but he never seems to warm up to anything.

He chats about the Ipswich prostitute murders, to no great purpose – but imagines a burly forklift truck driver in the front row might by capable of such atrocities. He keeps banging on about it – for why, it’s not clear, save for a couple of casual callbacks near the show’s end. It’s a strange fixation.

The flabby nattering continues with talk of daytime TV shows, of the Muslim veils, of Celebrity Big Brother, of the 72 virgins the Koran is supposed to promise suicide bombers – though it could be a mistranslation of 72 raisins. There’s nothing unique in subject matter, nor what he has to say about it – and simply making jokes about his lack of jokes does not make it all right.

Was Hughes a new comic, you’d forgive the blether and the fruitless obsession with talking to the audience, no matter how fruitless, as the insecurities of inexperience. But even with his absence, he should be beyond that now. If only he could place more trust in those personal thoughts that make him unique, it would be a return to form. As it stands, though, this is an overlong, underconceived disappointment.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.