Raymond Mearns April Fool Show

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Jay Richardson

April 1 is when everyone strives to be a comedian, not least the Great British media. Yet you can’t spot the fake stories for the day-to-day bollocks in most newspapers maintains Raymond Mearns.

After dismissing Fleet Street’s fabrications, the hefty Glaswegian nevertheless begins by quoting them at length, pouring rancid scorn on the tabloid tales. In the process, he resembles a touring comic desperately padding out a show with trivia from the local rag, not a respected veteran of the Scottish circuit playing to his ain folk.

In a vast, echoing venue usually employed for rock concerts, he cuts an uncomfortable, isolated figure shuffling through his papers, or disparaging ridiculously complex American pranks that he’s simply cut and pasted from the internet. The audience give him time, his perfunctory, four-letter rebukes keeping them onside. But the weakness of the April Fool focus is confirmed by the fact that his appeal for prank stories before the gig has attracted only one weak and contrived submission. And even that raises suspicions of another comic attempting sabotage.

Notwithstanding one hilarious tale, attributed to a friend, whereby the mercy killing of an old horse prompts a farmyard bloodbath, Mearns seems to have little appetite for his self-imposed April Fools theme. Sourced from acquaintances, newspapers or the web, the distancing effect of these second-hand stories is the same, reducing him to a testy, foul-mouthed but disengaged cultural commentator.

Only when he gives the news and current affairs a personal spin – the crisis surrounding female binge drinking being a boon for sex-starved ugly men – does the gig spark into life. His masterful bantering with a rambunctious audience becomes apparent from the way he deals with a woman who cheerfully admits to being his stalker. Or the man who jumps up to flash his nipples at the comic in overweight solidarity.

As Mearns wryly laments, he’s blessed with the sort of chubby, inherently funny features that can attract punters who’ve never heard his material before. The crude defiling of his posters, currently visible across Glasgow, only illustrates his appeal: roguish, forthright and in your face, but with a constant undercurrent of self-deprecation that’s endearing.

If there’s a genuine underlying theme to this show, it’s that Mearns is still having sex with his wife, despite the obstacles of age, the distraction of Sky Atlantic and the lack of respect he receives as head of his household. He bemoans his marriage, that his grown-up kids have still to fly the nest and that in a family of four, he’s number four in the pecking order.

Yet when a soon-to-be-divorcee takes this as a cue to howl besmirchment of marriage in general, Mearns isn’t having it, appealing for the man not to project his bitterness onto him. Perennially returning to a little dance of pumping arms, thrusting crotch and gurning facial contortions, he retains a fondness for the simple, primal pleasures in life, his frustrations at being denied them all the funnier for the barriers seeming so trivial. The impact of the evolution from LPs to CDs or the arrival of cable television on his sex life have been little short of catastrophic.

The working-class patter and the base desires are paired with a deceptively fast mind, evidenced by his ripe turns of phrase and memorable use of visual imagery. Born from an unpromising, pillow talk setup about a hypothetical lottery win and via a vicious swipe at his wife’s grasping siblings, he contrives a wonderful routine about the social shame of returning Irn-Bru bottles for cash. That in turn begets an entrepreneurial flash of genius to steal the heart of Duncan Bannatyne.

Interrogating a debt collector in the crowd, Mearns riffs with an admirably light touch on the pain of repossession and visiting the pawnbrokers. Musing on Lidl shoplifters, with amused incredulity he creates a relentlessly mocking, tremendously funny scenario of desperation that’s nevertheless suffused with tenderness for the poor sods who find themselves in such dire straits.

Inbetween, with no warning for delicacy, he graphically mimes getting back on the job with his wife, grinding doggedly away even as she answers her mobile. Imagining the situations reversed for the sexes, he concocts a brilliant riposte of brutal misogyny that only confirms his status as the loser in their relationship. A fool for all seasons then, not just April 1.

Review date: 4 Apr 2011
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Glasgow O2 ABC

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