Josh Widdicombe: Bit Much
- Jay Richardson
- 27 January 2020
The young fogey comic gets skilfully uptight once more about the pettiest of concerns
Josh Widdicombe rather tempted fate by pointing out the perils of an English stand-up playing Glasgow on Burns Night. The Last Leg presenter was warmly received at the King's Theatre, but he involuntarily got himself bogged down, going round in circles, in a debate about the universality of cultural references. The show went off on a tangent in the second half, towards the end of a typically polished routine about the ridiculousness of toll roads. After a punter bawled out that such phenomenon don't exist in Scotland, the patient Widdicombe was well within his rights to suggest that everybody still knew precisely what he was talking about.
Unfortunately, and in a more-or-less respectful way, this prompted 20 minutes of good-natured toying with the comic, as the audience yelled callbacks to his own earlier crowdwork. As he acknowledged, control was being wrested from him. However, that's a pitfall of his pedantic persona. If you choose to furiously nitpick, blowing minor irritations up into extended rants, you risk the crowd wanting to get in on the act.
Widdicombe claims that he worries about turning middle-aged. In reality, he enjoys being a grumpy old soul in a younger man's body and always has. A more truthful statement seemed to be his admission that he's relatively chilled in real life and stores his gripes up for the stage. Often, as when he splutters about the contents of his home-delivered organic vegetable box, blaming the order of uninspiring ingredients on his wife, it's easy to admire the tight, technical writing and adroitly established head-of-steam, while struggling to empathise or engage with such a first world non-problem.
Still, from his position of fogeyish intractability, you can't deny Widdicombe's finely-tuned observational eye. He gets a considerable amount of material from the ludicrous aspects of driving tests, while his closing routine on weddings is strikingly impressive for his ability to mine original humour from such a well-covered topic, being particularly sharp on the unspoken conventions of the evening do-only invite. What's more, when he talks about becoming a new father, it's a neat marriage of subject matter and personality, his huffy agitation dispelling any possible danger of mawkish sentimentality.
Josh Widdicombe: Bit Much is on tour until Friday 1 June. Seen at King's Theatre, Glasgow.