Michael McIntyre at Wembley Arena

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Given his sudden, all-conquering success, it’s no surprise that the backlash against Michael McIntyre has already begun. He’s a smug, unchallenging comedian, his detractors say, who just states the obvious and relies on exaggerated theatrics to falsely emphasise the punchlines. All this is, indeed, true, but fails to take into account one crucial mitigating factor: he’s damn funny – and that counts for more than all the cult fashionability he’ll never have.

Stating the obvious is also much, much harder than it looks. Or at least stating the obvious and making it funny, as the existence of countless unsuccessful observational stand-ups can attest. The smile of recognition when the audience realises that yes, we do behave like that, will only get a comic so far, yet McIntyre keeps the rolls laughing not just for the accuracy of his comments, but for the manipulatively perfect way he expresses them.

He’s a technically faultless craftsman – a drawback, perhaps, for those who seek a little imperfection in their art, but devastatingly effective when it comes to getting an arena full of people roaring with delight. There’s not an ounce of fat on this ruthlessly honed show. From the moment he hits the stage it’s ‘Bang!’ and into the material, none of that ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ shilly-shallying. The first punchline comes before you’ve quite realised the gig has begun.

He strides the stage with the same sense of purpose that he brings to his material, even if he’s going nowhere in particular. You wonder how he’s still quite chubby, as he must yomp a half-marathon every night. That to-and-fro pacing can be distracting up-close, but when you’ve got 12,000 people to entertain, it adds a sense of dynamism that can be seen even from Wembley’s upper tier, row ZZZ.

Every gesture is minutely planned, but massively performed; whether its his trademark skip with which he leaves the stage or the inclusive, open gesture that has his arms stretch wider than seems humanly possible. He wants to draw as many people as possible to him – and given this blockbuster tour, top-rated TV show and soon-to-be bestselling DVD, being recorded here tonight – he’s achieving his aim.

The starting points for his routines are, necessarily broad. Sometimes even he can’t take it beyond restating the shared observation, such as the barber’s pointless back-of-the-head mirror or the over made-up girls on a department store cosmetics counter.

But when he does mine deeper, he frequently finds gold – most often when he’s describing universal behavioural foibles, rather than commenting on external things he’s noticed. Women buying dresses, the ‘bullshit production’ of ordering wine in a restaurant, calling your missing phone to locate it… it sounds an uninspiring list of topics, but McIntyre ekes a lot out of it. Even when repeating a dull conversation, he has the performance techniques to make the tedious zing with life.

Anything that lets him use his bold physically also works well, especially when the inspiration is slightly offbeat. His re-enacting of the jittery pause on old VHS tapes compared to the crisp freeze-frame of Sky+ is especially funny, and kept, like every routine, efficiently lean.

Yes, there’s a certain clinicality to the way everything so meticulously planned – but the very fact that every word, pause and gesticulation has been chosen for good reason ensures this chuckle factory is running at maximum efficiency; and it’s hard to argue with his prodigious laugh rate.

Review date: 5 Oct 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Ovo Arena Wembley

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