Friday, October 26, 2012

Out of the ordinary

In recent shows, perennial student of comedy Stewart Lee has confessed to a detached fascination with - if not actual admiration for - the likes of Michael McIntyre. I'd like to say that it was in a similar spirit that I watched John Bishop's recorded-for-DVD Sunshine show when it was screened on TV recently. Indeed, the Scouse stand-up even made me think of Lee when he mentioned Top Gear as being "presented by three members of the BNP". Fair comment, but probably not one his core audience wants to hear and a bit out of keeping with his man-of-the-people comic persona.

In fact, that persona was what interested me the most. Sunshine was, essentially, a comedian who has found enormous success as a self-styled ordinary bloke now desperately struggling to come to terms with the fact that he can no longer convincingly pretend to be that person. So when he was talking about fancying celebrities, he recounted being stood next to Cheryl Cole rather than simply obsessing over her picture in a magazine. And so his point that kids will always look on their dad as a twat was illustrated with an anecdote about his appearance on Top Gear. As he kept repeating, his world has transformed dramatically since his stand-up career took off - no doubt a major concern for someone whose schtick is observational comedy whose amusement value is determined by the ability of others to relate.

If the celeb-studded anecdotes were potentially alienating for his audience, Bishop did play to the Liverpool Echo Arena crowd by peppering his set with some short, sharp asides about local places. He also sought to mine a rich seam of material as a father, identifying himself with other parents in the audience in opposition to the childless and carefree. And while the big set-piece at the end was predictable, who's to begrudge Bishop from (as he suggested) genuinely playing out his wildest dreams? Damn him for making my detachment melt away towards the end.

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