Christmas 2014: Top five live comedy DVDs
Featuring releases from Lee Evans, Simon Evans, Russell Howard, Miranda Hart and Jason Manford
This article is from 2014.
Brian Donaldson picks through this year’s raft of live comedy DVDs and sorts the wheat from the laugh
In a recent interview, Adrian Edmondson bemoaned pretty much the entire concept of stand-up comedy. Gigs, he reckoned, are just way too long: 20 minutes is about all he can take before eyeing a hasty exit. What on earth, then, would he make of Lee Evans: Monsters (●●), which clocks in at the 130-minute mark? We all know Evans as a human blur who sweats so profusely that a half-time change-of-suit is required while his propensity for mimicry is so vast that he will merrily imitate pelicans, kangaroos, dogs, squids and sharks as well as more inanimate objects like table tennis balls and socks.
What you might not know is that he fancies himself as some kind of balladeer and ends this show with a diabolical sub-sub Elton ditty about his wife. It’s difficult not to be in some way charmed by his hyper-eccentricity but if you hear the questions ‘have you ever seen … .?’ or ‘what’s going on with … ?’ once in his show you’ve heard them at least 50 times.
In the opening salvo of Simon Evans: Live at the Theatre Royal (●●●●), two Statler and Waldorf types speculate on who they are about to see going from Lee Evans to Lee Mack to Stewart Lee before alighting on this Brighton-housed comic. A sort-of amalgam of 18 years in the stand-up business, the show is structurally split between his early London years and later Sussex-based career. Anyone familiar with his Fringe shows will recognise the material about his strange eyes and cut-glass accent as well as a virulent strain of negativity towards Geordies, football and children (especially his own). Above all, he has amassed a selection of excellent jokes, and ties it all up rather wonderfully by retelling the moment he decided that the grim Antarctic adventures of Ernest Shackleton was suitable bedtime reading for his kids.
A child enters the fray at the climax of Russell Howard: Wonderbox (●●) for an unexpected sliver of gravitas in an hour-plus meander among a morass of nothingness. Sure, he does flirt with vague import via his experience of being trolled by an EDL activist with bad grammar, but most of the time you’re too busy gaping at the bulging biceps that this once scrawny stand-up appears to have borrowed from some comic-strip titan. Perhaps it’s a cunning tactic on his part to deflect attention away from his ‘material’ which is yet another trawl through the ‘crazy’ things that his family have said, more often than not ‘the other day’.
The problem with Miranda Hart: My, What I Call, Live Show (●●) is that you’re also not quite sure who you’re watching. While in manner and style, it often appears to be a version of to the real Miranda Hart, her sideways quips to the camera and bellowing of certain catchphrases show that she is simply too straitjacketed to her eponymous sitcom to wholly be herself.
While he may never shake the world off its circumference with his stand-up, Jason Manford: First World Problems (●●●●) shows that the former One Show host is among the best in the land at blokeish observational humour. His matey charm proves successful partly because he has a surprising eye for the off-kilter, such as the interview at his bank with a former Manc scally who is being distracted, hilariously, by a bumble bee. Possibly the one member of the animal kingdom which Lee Evans doesn’t attempt to impersonate.