Smug Roberts: Just Me | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett
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Smug Roberts: Just Me

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Steve Bennett

I really don’t know why Smug Roberts bothered coming to the Fringe. Over 20 years he’s built a reputation for being a dependable comic, mainly in the clubs of the North West of England, and has nothing to prove on that front.

An Edinburgh show might offer an opportunity to build his stature, a chance to go places he can’t in clubs, or at least to demonstrate how he can get laughs for a solid hour, a show he might be able to launch as a tour.

But Roberts seems to have come here with very little such ambition. He chats about his life and his kids, but it’s just chat, not routines. He’s got a confidence - of course he has – but few punchlines. 

Closest are observations about seeing naked penises in the gym changing rooms, a tired trope, and a line about caesarean-born children leaving the house by the catflap that’s an inelegant variation on Stephen Wright’s classic one-liner. Anthropomorphising his dog so he talks is a sweetly funny moment, but fleeting between convincing but unembellished scenes of everyday family life.

He mainly tells us about his grown-up kids and how he’s now the oldest dad at the school gates after starting another family with a new wife. Now 57, he gets mistaken for his youngest kid’s granddad, and the other dads take pity on him on sports day, and let him win. These things are not funny in themselves, but Roberts leaves them there as if they were. And they are not the only anecdotes to just fizzle out.

There’s a bit about affecting a stroke to try to get a GP’s appointment which shows a rare spirit of invention beyond simple reportage from his life, but it’s too long and only amplifies the original idea, without taking it to new places.

It’s a shame that Just Me is such a dud because it started so well, Roberts rousing up the Saturday night audience, relishing some spirited back-and-forth, a place in which he’s most at home. With a boisterous playfulness, he gave himself three separate introductions – including one as Johnny Vegas – and asked us to pick which one we wanted. A lovely bit of banter, setting the stage for an hour of rambunctious hilarity that just didn’t come.

The ‘show’ – that seemed a grand title for what it was – ran for only three-quarters of its advertised hour, and that was a blessing. Several people had snuck out already.

You might think this is snobbish festival audiences not recognising club-forged talent when they see it, but Roberts is a comic who thought he could wing it when compared to 700 other stand-ups who’ve spent a year or more working on a show. Even when you’re as experienced as he is, and as engaging a stage presence, you still need to put in the graft.

Review date: 28 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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