Will Smith – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Will Smith is every Hollywood casting agent’s idea of the archetypal Englishman: posh, tweedy, well mannered – and emotionally retarded. In short, the Hugh Grant of stand-up.

He exploits this heightened, impotent persona wonderfully; all breeding and geeky knowledge but no street smarts, leaving him appalled at the way of the modern world yet too terrified by it than to do anything but tut disapprovingly.

What makes his set work so well is that he is such a clearly defined Middle England stereotype, with whom the audience can instantly identify – yet with enough oddball quirks to make it more than a two-dimensional caricature.

The fact that Smith has clearly mined his own closeted life helps, too. You fear the scenes of social awkwardness and sexual temerity, are not that far removed from his real experiences, not to mention that longing for a bygone era where being posh was qualification enough for anything, rather than being a source of mockery. In today’s world, he can barely function, and is so paralysed by the fear of making a fool of himself that he inevitably ends up doing exactly that, his embarrassment all the more acute because of his morbid dread of it.

If only reality were more like Bergerac, about which he displays a worryingly encyclopaedic knowledge in one of those unexpected, but entirely plausible, quirks that add to his performance. He can link any actor back to the genteel Jersey detective series, and often lets the audience put that to the test.

The fact that his tastes in TV and music are so unfashionable are no bar to him proudly advocating their virtues, again allowing him to mine that comedy-rich gap between how the world is, and how he feels it should be. The fact he feigns a complete lack of awareness of how wilfully out of step he is with the rest of society only adds to the laughs.

To support Smith’s perfect, fully evolved persona, is sharp writing, a tightly constructed routine, and faultless delivery which varies between righteous indignation and the unflatteringly confessional. Definitely a class act, in both senses of the word.

Review date: 1 Dec 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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