Michael McIntyre: Big World Tour | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Centre
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Michael McIntyre: Big World Tour

Note: This review is from 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Centre

Observational comedy is a lot harder than Michael McIntyre makes it look. His support act, Andrew Bird, proves that with 20 minutes of benign but tired reminiscences, recalling, for instance, that when he was a kid, babysitting involved being abandoned in the car outside a pub, fed the occasional packet of crisps.

The contrast with the main event is immense. In the stand-out routine of his Big World Tour, Michael McIntyre takes the most mundane act of getting into a hot bath and weaves more than five minutes of exquisite material from it, bringing each line to life with a brilliantly pantomimed physicality. We’ve all been there, but few could hope to relay the experience with the precision and wit that McIntyre brings to his animated retelling.

Speaking of physicality, his trademark skips across the stage are a little more subdued now he’s in his fifth decade (42 to be precise). Instead, his gait is more browbeat, shuffling more than skipping, though he can break out into the funniest of funny walks when the occasion demands it, with his exaggerated mime of tiptoeing around the dogshit and jagged rocks of a Tyneside beach is hilarious.

Most critiques of McIntyre focus on the material, seen as either unimaginative or universal, depending on whether it’s coming from a critic or fan. But he is a much more skilled physical comedian than he’s usually given credit for, as the preposterous illustration of his snug-fitting jacket demonstrates. And there are more farcical scenes as he describes misunderstanding the cheap, disposable underpants he was given for a massage.

Even the act of scrolling through a website menu becomes an animated adventure, his head bobbing with the mouse wheel, while in a section about driving, every aspect of the process is recreated with his body from the excitable windscreen wipers on full pelt to the hazard lights, their blinking in thanks illustrated with a coquettish bum-wiggle.

In truth, the car section seems a bit laboured; you can feel the gears grind as he sat writing this piece, mentally moving around the vehicle imagining how he could spin every function into stand-up. By the time he gets to the irritation he feels when fellow motorists cut into a traffic jam, it seems a straightforward expression of his frustration rather than an especially inspired comic spin. 

There’s a similar sense of the engineering going on display in the last leg of the show when he deploys a lot of needless callbacks, most of which feel contrived and cheap compared to his most lustrous observational finery.

His audience love seeing their lives reflected back at them. And he’s the such an archetype of the cheery, suburban, middle-class Englishman that he starts by speaking about the weather, the very cliché of small talk. But then McIntrye has always excelled at taking the temperature of Middle England.

Then there’s the Royal Wedding, which shows he can do topical commentary, where even if the gags aren’t pin-sharp, the observations are. But, of course, no one goes go expecting McIntyre to address much of the outside world, his politics extends to quips about Boris Johnson’s shambolic dress sense or mentioning North Korea only so the comic can point out how surprisingly Asian he looks.

There are a couple of glimpses into his home life, such as the fact he must wear an orthopaedic lumbar support to counter a bad back, something of a mood-killer in the bedroom. But mostly his dispatches from the home front are as universally identifiable as the rest, as he speaks about his two children, who won’t eat their broccoli, clean their teeth or wear weather-appropriate appropriate clothing. His wife is portrayed as a profligate shopper he must negotiate with for sex - hardly a 21st Century image - although she ultimately emerges a little more rounded than that stereotype.

As well as McIntyre’s physicality, his performance also includes  a range of accents, all spurious by various degrees: Australian, Geordie, Northern Irish, Mexican and, iffily, a brief bit of Chinese. ‘Hirarious.’ Still, he’s apparently Asian, so that’s OK.

But of course, McIntyre’s not here to offend, or provoked, or to prompt any semblance of thought. He’s an out-and-out entertainer, scuttling off the stage with a boyish ‘byeeeee’ and enthusiastic wave. 

On those terms, he is as dependably amusing as ever, while about a third of his 90-minute show transcends the everyday, proving how the Rolls-Royce engineering that goes into the writing of his show can pay off with definitive observational routines unlikely to be bettered. But there is fat on the bone too.

Review date: 29 May 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Centre

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