Venue: Grand Opera House
Run: 4th December 2011
Chris Addison came to the Grand Opera House, as part of his new tour ’The Time is Now, Again’. The curly-haired comic is well-known for his character in ‘The Thick of it’, but also for numerous appearances on panel shows such as Mock the Week and QI. His stand-up tours have gained him mixed acclaim throughout a fifteen-year career, and as he says himself during the show: “This is my last ever tour… Before the apocalyptic pan-European war”.
It took me a while to warm up to Chris Addison, and even then I found his comedy very hit-and-miss. I’m not sure the idea of a ‘middle-class’ persona really works- it’s too vanilla, surely? It seems rather difficult to base a comic persona on a regular person rather than a stereotype. I think this is something that Addison is constantly in an uphill struggle against, because it often makes it very hard to understand what angle he is coming from. He also didn’t seem to have very much of a stage presence, an issue which was exacerbated by his lack of a warm-up act.
There are a lot of very witty observations which stimulated the imagination as much as the funny bone… but most of the observational material is either let down by the quality of the comedy, or the quality of the observation. At one point, for example, the comic refers to Ed Miliband as having an ‘Ornately feathered vagina’- a funny image, sure, but not one with a particular relevance . Conversely, in another joke he drew attention to the mirrors-on-trolleys you get in the Minster (so far so good)- but the punchline was ‘I’d like to put a Betty’s tea service on one’. It was confusing and underwhelming, leaving me puzzled rather than amused.
The show certainly picked up in the second half, which was the home of some of the sharper local references and some audience interaction- which often showed a very quick wit. There were a few cracking moments- such as the revelation that the G8 leaders are all stereotypes- but the narrative thread is so tortuous; it’s easy to get a bit lost in what is, ultimately, a very loosely structured couple of hours. I got the sense that a lot of ad-libbing was going on, but the local material seemed highly genuine, which is always nice to see in any performer.
It’s actually quite a political show, which is both good and bad. Addison’s characterisation of various political figures is very well done, and enjoyable to watch- as well as being intelligent, which is an optional but pleasing extra. On the other hand, there is a sense that the middle-class liberal stance he takes on stage is very much his own- and it carries with it a distasteful air of bitterness and petulance. When it comes to complaining, Addison loses his satirical edge and just becomes whiny. It’s hard to laugh at, not just because you lose sympathy with him but because his apparent passion for the subject at hand warps the humorous structure of the narrative- I was sat waiting for a punchline that never came.
Overall, I found Chris Addison’s comedy to be as hit-and-miss as his persona was inconsistent. He seems like a very nice, chatty, and relatively amusing guy, but in the nicest way possible I would question whether he’s really cut out for stand-up. The evening is dominated by a long murmuring chuckle from the audience, but the belly-laughs were left at home. I’d like to hang out with Chris Addison, and be friends with him- but the thought of seeing him onstage again is a lot less appealing.