Glasgow Comedy Festival - Rob Brydon
More than just the funniest man in Britain today, Rob Brydon is a multi-faceted man of mirth and to kick off our coverage of the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Claire Sawers explains why we love him
For the laughter
Under the Bruce Forsyth jawline and what he describes as ‘Olympic acne’ the man just has funny bones. Fact.
In Brydon’s world, the losers are the real heroes. The pathetic, the blissfully irony-free, the nice guy that always finishes last – Brydon’s comedy taps into that goldmine of gimps, geeks and nerds. His humour comes with a dark edge, where we feel as much pity as affection for the kind-hearted runts he plays.
In the past, Brydon has admitted he prefers the straight man in a double act. Backing the underdog, Brydon instinctively likes the less cool one, the one quietly teeing up shots so the other guy can shoot them straight out of sight. He prefers Dud over Pete, or Ronnie Corbett over Ronnie Barker, and in his own relationship with Steve Coogan, seems more comfortable playing the ass-kisser of the pair, despite now being a bona fide star in his own right.
Even when he’s doing well for himself – fronting his own show, Anually Retentive for example, he can’t resist writing himself in as the vain twat backstage, tactlessly offending panel guests. It’s funny because we know he’s a lovely, self-effacing man, really. Whether it’s toilet disinfectant or divorce he’s dealing with, it’s all just ‘a bit of fun’.
For the tears
Brydon’s breakthrough, the bittersweet Marion and Geoff, contained as many knuckle-bitingly poignant moments as belly laughs. The story of loveable loser Keith Barret, whose wife ran off with another man, would have brought tears to a glass eye. We didn’t know whether to hug him or shake him as he reminisced about his ‘little smashers’, and remained maniacally positive in the face of divorce. ‘I didn’t lose a wife, so much as gain a friend in Geoff,’ he nods, through the world’s stiffest upper lip. The 2000 TV series – predating The Office’s mock-documentary style or Peep Show’s direct-to-camera dialogue – won him a British Comedy Award and two Baftas for lines like, ‘If Michael Owen scores a goal, I’m delighted. But I always spare a thought for the goalkeeper.’
For the Welshness
He’s a credit to Wales, and we’ll tell you for why. His portrayal of sat-nav obsessed Uncle Bryn in Gavin and Stacey makes for comedy gold. Horrified by sex, and the last to admit he may potentially be gay, Bryn feels ‘snowed over’ after signing up for ‘the MySpace’ and noticing he has 17 friends.
In early stand-up, the comic used to make leek-lovers from his homeland the butt of his jokes, but recently Brydon has been standing up for the Welsh. In a BBC documentary, Rob Brydon’s Identity Crisis, he explored the idea that Wales suffers from low self-esteem, which rather handily, makes for some great comedy.
For the friends
Because any friend of Steve Coogan’s is a friend of ours. Brydon is good pals with Alan Partridge’s inventor and claims (wrongly) that he grew up admiring him on TV ‘as an adolescent’. More truthfully, Brydon considers Coogan a comedy mentor after Coogan discovered him and took tapes of Marion and Geoff to the BBC. The show was eventually produced by Coogan’s Baby Cow production company. The pair first appeared together in the comedy Cruise of the Gods, and later in the Tristram Shandy inspired A Cock and Bull Story.
For the voice
It took almost a decade for Brydon’s comedy rocket to launch and before becoming a household name, he endorsed household goods as a voiceover artist. You name it, he’s plugged it, from Toilet Duck to Pot Noodle, via Tesco and Tango. See? No pretensions. Perhaps no shame either.
For the singing voice
The same voice that graces the ad breaks and airwaves (he spent six years as a DJ for BBC Radio Wales) can also hold a very respectable tune. Yep, that’s right. The multi-talented swine can also sing. He has proved his singing skills several times on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, where he belted out hits from fellow Valleys boy and knicker-target, Tom Jones, including ‘Delilah’ and ‘She’s a Lady’.
For the impeccable taste
His own comedy instincts are fairly well honed too. After seeing Flight of the Conchords at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2004 he knew he’d spotted an act on the up and up. Brydon narrated the Radio 2 series of FOTC, where Bret and Jemaine try to break America with ‘New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody band’.
For the impressions
Who does the best Ronnie Corbett? Coogan or Brydon? The pair had an impression-off on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and there was more competitive mimicry in A Cock and Bull Story when they showed off their Al Pacinos. Special mention goes to Brydon’s Russell Brand (‘a sexy Kenneth Williams’), his homage to James Blunt or his baritone Wogan.
For the uncanny resemblance to...
Richard Jobson? Ben Miller? We think they were all separated at birth. Anton Du Beke, that ballroom dancer off Strictly Come Dancing may have been the fourth quadruplet.
For the niceness
Brydon is currently doing his bit for charity with a Comic Relief cover of the Dolly and Kenny hit ‘Islands in the Stream’, with Gavin and Stacey co-star Ruth Jones and Tom Jones. Brydon and Ruth have been friends since school. Sense of humour and a big heart? Now, that’s just showing off.
Rob Brydon plays the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Thu 12 and Wed 25 Mar.