COMEDY / Over and out: Mark Wareham on Newman & Baddiel's 'last' act - the first Wembley comedy show

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The Independent Culture
Outside Wembley Arena, the touts sought in vain to offload wads of tickets at knockdown prices. 'How much you got then?' said one to a group of youths. 'Forget it,' they replied. 'We're off down the dogs.'

Given the choice, most of the critics who so love to hate Newman and Baddiel would have opted for huddling on the Wembley terraces to watch greyhounds running round in circles. Garry Bushell of the Sun, the duo's lone critical defender, sat stoically near the front, craning his neck up at one of the four screens that hung over the stage, which was planted, boxing ring-style, in the centre of the arena. Some of the press didn't even bother to wait for the lauded history professors to shuffle on for their final showdown.

But what do Newman and Baddiel need to care about media critique? Never have a pair of comedians enjoyed such mass adulation from fans who argue that you don't get to play the first-ever comedy show in a UK arena by being a couple of talentless, puerile self-obsessives. Well, perhaps not by being talentless.

The duo used their newfound space well enough. In addition to the screens, there was a revolving inner stage and plenty of rock 'n' roll theatrics - poses struck, hysteria milked and Newman's grand entries by trapeze and motorised skateboard.

If, on this evidence, we are to believe that comedy truly is the new rock 'n' roll (stifle yawns), then Newman and Baddiel are the Cure (it's their last live show together. . . until the next one), Simon and Garfunkel (separate dressing rooms, separate hotels, separate interviews) and Take That] (pin-up idols of teenie desire) rolled into one.

In front of me sat a pair of pre- pubescents who looked too young to understand a Take That] lyric, let alone Baddiel's confessionals on hard porn and Newman's magnificent Jarvis, the purring, decadent sleazebag who preys on the street children of Soho. Elsewhere, a brigade of spotties screamed through their braces every time Baddiel talked dirty. 'Oh dear,' he observed, 'there are some foetuses in the audience.'

Not surprising, then, given the adulation, that much of Baddiel and Newman's material is about themselves - their bodies, their sex lives, their angst and paranoia. . . At times, it's little more than an on-stage fanclub bulletin. Despite being more a double bill than a double act, they hit their greatest heights when teaming up as the bickering Late Show intellectuals and, inevitably, the schoolboy historians - 'See that Stephen Hawking, a man who has overcome terrible physical affliction to become the premier physicist of our time. . . He's your favourite gladiator, he is.' If they do go their own ways, they certainly won't be playing Wembley individually.

(Photograph omitted)