Sean Lock: Purple Van Man

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Sean Lock has built an enviable reputation on scatterbrained ideas he hasn’t thought through properly, firing off the sort of mad philosophies a barfly might come up with seven hours into an all-day session. It’s a creatively cock-eyed way of thinking, which leads him to ideas that are as hilarious as they are fanciful.

But the lack of rigour that he celebrates can also, sometimes, percolate through to his comedy; and there are several routines in his meaninglessly-titled tour Purple Van Man which peter out with a pffft, as he loses sight of where punchlines are needed. Such indulgences are quickly forgiven, however, just as soon as he blindsides the audience with the next original and quirky image from his off-kilter imagination.

When he’s addressing the sort of dilemmas that arise from sozzled conversation, he has an unshakeable conviction that he’s right. He absolutely knows whether it would be better to share a sleeping bag with Ronnie Wood or Jeremy Vine, for example, and has a thesis to back it up.

Yet when it comes to explaining the world to his children, such certainties evaporate, and he’s left to far-fetched lies to explain the likes of gravity or Velcro. Not that such a lack of practical knowledge stops him from coming up with business ideas, which aren’t always as hare-brained as they might first appear.

Of course, no bar-stool philosopher would be complete without a political agenda, and Lock has some impeccably cutting remarks our ruling elite, including an exquisite insult for Ed Miliband. He has some left-wing tendencies, as most comics tend to, but when it comes to crime and punishment, he’d admits to being a little to the right of Hitler, or even Michael Gove.

However he comes unstuck in a too-long routine about Chinese manufacturing dominance and sweat-shop labour that leaves you longing for a return to his surreal forte – such as the single defining routine of the show, about a badly-designed centaur, which he brings brilliantly, and extravagantly, to life in the most unexpected of ways.

When it comes to his own quixotic manifesto, set out with the repetition of the phrase ‘I want to live in a world where...’, it’s hard to dispute the principles of his utopia, however impractical. This is observational comedy with a dash of the absurd, that’s still easy to identify with.

Lock’s gift is that you never quite know where he’s going to go, either in topics or approach, one minute pondering why the meerkat insurance ads aren’t racist, the next suggesting ideas for super-niche radio stations, the next praising the carefree drunk young women that newspapers would have you believe a sign of broken Britain.

One subject he does return to is the sexualisation of pop. Having so effectively mocked Madonna’s aggressive eroticism in his previous show, here it’s Rihanna who’s the example of raunch over talent.

An encore in which he decodes how ballet moves tell a story, complete with far too many clumsy leaps around the stage, seems to entertain him more than the audience; but he’s earned it from the gems he liberally sprinkled throughout the previous two hours.

Review date: 1 May 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Guildford G Live

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