Michael McIntyre: Showman | Netflix special reviewed by Steve Bennett
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Michael McIntyre: Showman

Netflix special reviewed by Steve Bennett

For a benign observational stand-up, Michael McIntyre can be a surprisingly divisive figure among comedy aficionados. This review - and indeed his first Netflix special - is not going to change your mind either way as to the merits of his work.

Showman - its very title making no bones about the comic’s theatrical approach to his craft – contains some sublime despatches from ordinary life, expressing familiar scenarios with a clarity, verve and incredulous wit at how ridiculous it all is.

But it also contains some more pedestrian segments, which benefit from his technical superiority and bouncy, exaggerated physicality, but still feel a little emptier.

The purposeful strides that once were his trademark may have largely gone - though he does contrive a routine about moving like a ninja to stretch a visual gag across the full breadth of the London Palladium stage – but he gets laughs from his body from the get-go, from the unfortunate bunching of his jacket’s lapels to contorting his ‘chubby’ face. 

His portrait of domestic life is vivid, and widely relatable - a universality which explains why not every starting point is strikingly original. But he lets scenarios as simple as getting into a hot bath unfold with escalating detail, the stakes gradually ramping up to their inevitable conclusion with his deliberate, emphatic phrasing increasing the anticipation for each line. Dynamic act-outs then seal the deal as we relive his indignity.

If some of the attitudes are old-fashioned – such as the constant complaint is that his wife spends all his hard-earned cash on shoes – there are clearly plenty who identify. 

Indeed, there are so many ‘that’s so true’ moments here, from internet passwords - including a short routine getting the most from the pleasingly rhythmical sound of ‘www.’ – to trying to prise his teenage son from his Xbox. And the underlying notion is almost always that McIntyre is a man not quite as in control of his own life as he would like to be.

Away from the domestic, though, the comic is less distinctive on topics such as Australians being attacked by sharks, of being considered good-looking in South-East Asia (including a prescient mention of face-masks), and of Belfast being proud of building the Titanic, using a line that’s been a staple around the city for decades. But even these are peppered with images or lines likely to elicit a snort of laughter. 

Towards the end, McIntyre performs a chunk on accents and dogs’ sniffing each others’ balls, neither of which has much substance, even when combining them. And the alleged thoughts of his own Norfolk terrier are a creakily contrived mechanism to call back all the material that has gone before.

But some of those moments are perfect examples of the observational comedian’s craft, shining new light on what we’ve all experienced in a way that’s infectiously hilarious – and certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as too slight.

Michael McIntyre: Showman is released on Netflix today.

Review date: 15 Sep 2020
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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