While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fringe 2008: Michael McIntyre

Michael McIntyre
9pm Wednesday 20 August

The venue (Pleasance One) was packed at 9pm. Status quo for Michael McIntyre, whose initial run of 27 shows over the festival sold out. He added a few more. They sold out. So it’s not like I’m spruiking a show that’s desperate for punters…

The total sell out means two things: 1) Michael McIntyre is a popular guy (check out the clips on his myspace to see why); and 2) he's already had a big month and it's not quite finished.

By my count it was his 24th show in 21 days last night and the exhaustion showed. He tried working it into his opening, claiming the tram works were to blame. This got the locals onside (I class myself as a local in this respect), and the first fifteen minutes flew by with a mix of audience interaction and forays into his prepared material. But by McIntyre's own admission, the show went a bit off the rails when he started talking to a guy down the front from Falkirk (McIntrye: "I know nothing about Falkirk. Is it big?" Audience member: "It's medium sized"). He then went off on a tangent about Scottish national dress which ran the dangerous line between hackneyed and offensive; then told a story about being punched in the face by a seventy-two year old woman with Asbergers. It sounds quite funny saying it like that, but I found myself looking at my watch and thinking 'How much of his golden prepared material will he have to sacrifice to finish this damn story?'

This is not to say the show was a total bomb. I know it's a massive reviewer cliché to refer to what the person behind them said while exiting the theatre after a show, but this really happened (not like how things "happen" to stand up comedians): the young woman behind me told her friend she'd never laughed so much in her life (except maybe at The Producers when she saw it on Broadway), that her cheeks hurt and she had worried she would wet herself at one point.

[Aside: I'd like to follow this woman around and see if she was a total cliché in other arenas (leave the bathroom with toilet paper trailing behind her on a big date; says unfavourable things about her boss while she is standing behind her…) but I think legally this would be considered “stalking”.]

When I thought about it afterwards, there was a tension in Michael McIntyre's show last night between the observational material and his personal anecdotes.

Both prepared and off-the-cuff observations (camouflage apparel is designed for the woods not a theatre; men tend to have a single drawer where they store things like batteries and instruction booklets for appliances they no longer own) went down well. While delivering this material, there's no real need for an "I". McIntryre's not saying "I have a man drawer", or "I think camouflage is stupid," it's implied that he is one of the many, one of "us". Classic comedy ploy; McIntyre's bread and butter.

But then when he told wee (and not so wee) stories that supposedly happened to him, he slipped into a different, less likeable persona. He was the sort of well-meaning fuck-up who gets mistaken for a paedophile or assaulted by the elderly. It seemed to undercut his authority when he went back to making humorous observation, and this might just be the reason I never worried about wetting myself and my cheeks felt normal as I left the Pleasance last night.

I did however keel over with laughter at his impersonation of Jools Holland. Probably worth the ticket price just there.

So a mixed review. Oh well, not like he has any tickets left to sell!

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