Comedy Mark Little Sucks The Alban Arena, St Albans

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The Independent Culture
The first applause for Mark Little at St Albans last week came early on in the show, when he shouted through a megaphone, "Get down off the couch, Bouncer." The man who for some people will for ever be Joe Mangel was understandably keen to get the Neighbours gags over with sharpish. "I know there's a fair whack of you out there who still think Neighbours is a documentary," he sighed. "The big thing people always say to me in the street is, 'I'm sorry Bouncer's dead.' " He kept making a point of swearing to shock people who may have thought to themselves, "Joe Mangel would never use that kind of language." When Little talked about his mother, a heckler shouted out, "We've seen your mum, she's Mrs Mangel." "That's right, Mrs Mangel's my mum," Little replied, smiling patronisingly. "You've gotta humour them."

Having got Neighbours out of his system, he was free to get on with establishing his new identity as an observational stand-up - and a pretty good one, at that. As with all the best members of comedy's Ramblers' Association - Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard - Little doesn't really talk about anything; you would be hard pressed afterwards to recall a single story. Little's knack is to construct a comic picture by scribbling madly all over a blank page. He certainly looked comic, walking on stage to the sound of music from Pulp Fiction in sun-glasses, a baggy white suit, a loud Hawaiian shirt and sandals. Pre-empting criticism, he laughed at himself: "Good God, what have I come as? A Colombian crack dealer?" He also gained mileage from the set - a spoof artistic installation comprising a duvet hanging from a rail, a duvet in a glass case and a TV set suspended in a fishing- net. The chief function of all this seemed to be as a comedy mallet with which to bash Damien Hirst.

Frequently popping pills from a "Prozac Tree" at the side of the stage, Little extolled the drug's virtues: "You're so happy, you can watch bloody Bosnia and tape it." He was at his best, though, in unscripted moments. When he was getting interference on his microphone, he called out to the soundman, "Quick, there's a pelican trapped in the ceiling." Finally defeated by gremlins, he asked, "Can we turn this off? I'm just gonna project like Kenneth Branagh." He put down a gaggle of unintelligible hecklers as a Norwegian clown troupe, and became exasperated by the feebleness of audience- suggestions for his act: "Ah, the state of the nation. We have an opportunity to talk about whatever we like, and all you can say is 'pants' and 'haircuts'. " Near the end, he contemplated the fact that politics has largely gone out of stand-up. "Now it's just people wandering around doing a bit of comedy and seeing if they can get a beer out of it." And it's all the better for it.

n Mark Little Sucks continues a national tour until 18 Nov. Details: 0171-734 2840