Stephen Grant: Second

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Last year, avowed petrolhead Stephen Grant narrowly missed out on becoming a Top Gear presenter, coming in as second choice behind James May. It got him thinking how coming second is an achievement; how it is more noble to have fought valiantly to achieve silver than to win with ease. Hence this show.

His love of speed isn’t confined to cars, however, as his delivery is positively turbocharged – a breakneck rush through a wide range of topics, opinions and gags as he tries to cram about 90 minutes’ worth of material into a 60 minute slot.

He brings an animated passion to everything he says; becoming increasingly exciteable as he warms to his themes. The pitch and volume of his voice rises as he gets agitated by the stories he recounts. He becomes a vibrant source of energy, enlivening the whole room.

Topics go whipping past like fenceposts seen from an express train. How Britain’s sporting history is built on coming second; his own competitiveness, class divisions on planes, postages and even supermarket labels; his American namesake who committed a gruesome murder – brisk, sharp stand-up routines them all. He’s pedantic, obsessive and easily wound-up, which mightn’t be ideal skills for a laid-back life, but certainly work in his favour when it comes to stand-up.

There are some superb lines in here, although there’s a danger some of them may be lost in the avalanche of words coming at you – the excellent ‘rapier wit’ gag certainly deserved more than it got. It’s slightly disappointing that he did a routine gag about Heather Mills’ leg, and a section on the Scottish not inventing half the things they take credit for was similar to a segment that’s aired on QI, for whom Grant provides the audience warm-up.

But these are very minor points in a hugely impressive display of fervently smart stand-up, mixing general themes with the personal, such as losing his radio job and going through a difficult divorce. They’re mined for jokes, not for pathos, however as Grant’s never one to miss a punchline, which explains the high gag rate in this bracing hour.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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