JIMMY Carr take note. You don’t have to slur people with Down’s Syndrome and the fact that they struggle to read road signs outside of schools to get laughs. Alan Davies gave a performance of observational wit, and showed himself to be from the Bill Cosby School of Comedy. You don’t have to swear or belittle people to be funny.
Tonight’s show was a journey round the roads of Islington and Essex as the QI and Jonathan Creek star regaled his captive audience with anecdotes about buying his school uniform needlessly from a shop called “Shattins”. He went on to explain the joys of parenthood and the fact his infant son could not understand where farts came from, and how he once bought a sex toy as a Secret Santa entitled “Anal Hoopla”. Hilarious but not explained in graphic detail. It needn’t have been. The intelligence of the captive audience filled in the gaps – like Eddie Izzard but without the drag.
This marathon tour docked in Aberystwyth nearly two years after hitting the road. There were your obvious puns about how only one person need to purchase his tour DVD because you can “literally, obviously, naturally” pass it on to the next person in town by opening one’s door. It was as if he was ten again on an English (sorry, Welsh) seaside holiday. He presented the onlookers with his conundrum about getting the snip because his wife was twisting his arm about a third child like choosing a dessert in a restaurant “I’ll have one of you’ll be having one”. But then he did get the snip how he could use his you-know what as a leafblower. The closest he went to the knuckle was explaining how gay people avoided police detection when he was a teenager. Instead of the policeman looking under toilet stalls and finding two pairs of feet, one would get a large cardboard bag from a long forgotten store and stand in it. When plod came perusing, one pair of shoes, and a cardboard bag. Problem solved.
The experienced and erudite funny-man justified entitling his show Life is Pain because it is one of the founding philosophies behind Buddhism. It is such references and thought and care behind his comedy that made his presence magnetic. He had your attention, and he wasn’t going to let go, like that sparrow-hawk he handled one summer. His education in Drama is very clear to see.
His comedy is so effective because he has taken the time to judge his audience. This knowledge is stored and dropped at the opportune moment for maximum effect. It’s as if he has been chemically exact, and taken the time to really master his art. The audience was from a range of backgrounds and age-groups, and he had them all eating out of his hand. Experience is a rare elixir.
Alan Davies surprised me with how impressive he was. I don’t know why but I expected something far more serious, fuelled by reading or grievous pain. He made everything jovial and I was carried along on a wave of wit, swimming in a sea of smiles. He even panned his own DVD (On sale now from all major outlets), advising that we wait a year to see it again, but will still be sitting there at Christmas 2014 saying this looks vaguely familiar.
The best comedians are self-deprecating and do not engage in their own hype. Rather than fully engaging in the world of celebrity like Alan Carr, he just gets on with the job at hand, pointing fun at the fact that he has been a comedian for so long. His experience allows him to look back and laugh. There’s a Bruce Springsteen lyric in there somewhere. Another highly enjoyable evening offered up by our irrepressibly good Arts Centre. We are incredibly lucky to have local, national and international talent of such a high standard on our doorstep.