Its a long way down from a major peak-time series on BBC1 to the Sheffield Memorial Hall, something not lost on the comedian and impressionist Alistair McGowan, who alluded to it at least three times.
Live comedy has never been more popular, a number of comedians regularly play arenas; McGowan comes over as a genuinely nice bloke, he’s very talented, naturally funny and his impressions are great, so why is he playing small venues?
Perhaps the problem is that, like his TV show, his material is good and often very good, but rarely great. Or maybe he just lost his audience, or failed to refresh and augment it.
It is ten years since the Bafta-winning The Big Impression and he didn’t tour between 2001 and 2009. As MacGowan himself pointed out, most of this audience were over the age of 40. Hopefully he is on his way back, on the basis of this show he deserves to be.
Alistair McGowan is very funny, he knows how to tell a joke, can be quite self-deprecating and makes some nice observations. He clearly works hard, he tried out some newly written material on us and made an effort to include local jokes and impressions; he took-off present and past Sheffield Wednesday managers Dave Jones and Howard Wilkinson. MacGowan made his name as a sports impressionist and this is still a significant part of his act, including imagining England manager Roy Hodgson becoming Fagin in Oliver.
He does a hilarious quickfire skit on other comedians, mimicking Dara O’Briain, Micky Flanagan, John Bishop, Jo Brand and others. For the most part, MacGowan eschews political comedy, but he drops in some funny impersonations, such as of Ed Milliband, and observations. All of his impressions are done without props, a person was accurately and humorously conveyed through voice and mannerism.
I found this a laugh-out-loud funny show, if perhaps not roll-around-on-the-floor, side-splittingly so. It was a very enjoyable evening, I’d recommend his show and I’d go to see him again.
– Simon Benton