As the newest mass-market observational comedian Michael McIntyre is riding a wave of goodwill, buoyed by the half a million people who will see him on his current tour and by the five million viewers of his primetime BBC show. The ebullient comedian follows in the footsteps of Lee Evans and Peter Kay as the latest to blow up the minutiae of life large enough to fill an arena, an "arenavational comic" you might say, if you were keen to coin a phrase. And a middle-class one at that.
However, inflating out-of-proportion the anxieties of shoe shopping or of ordering wine at a restaurant, has elicited the inevitable swingeing criticism. "I know you ain't got soul" seems to be the common complaint from these carpers with the blues, a shot that McIntyre definitively parried when he once told me in interview: "There's nothing in my soul except traffic and doesn't your breath smell in the morning. That's what I am that's what I do." A man of his word, offending breath is one of the petty problems on the menu tonight with McIntyre incredulously remarking: "There's no such thing as afternoon breath?" before moving on to the equally perilous overnight sensation, that of dead arms and the obstacle they present in chasing off burglars.
Filling the vast, featureless Wembley Arena stage, the portly comic prances and gesticulates to fill out his comedy doodles. Sometimes they are not fully realised, for example a skit on Dragons' Den ends with a robbery but promised more illustration, ditto a riff on the Narnia-like quality of his drinks cabinet. Sometimes, the audience applause anticipates where a routine might end before it does, as they recognise a climax has been reached. Elsewhere, in the case of frightening his one-year-old child by over-zealous participation in a game of Wii tennis, McIntyre's routines have a more definite climax.
While punchy one-liners are not generally the McIntyre way, that's not to say he doesn't conjure up some pithy moments. Of the swine-flu regalia of gloves and masks he remarks: "Isn't it ironic that Michael Jackson died just as his look came into fashion?" Elsewhere, the de facto punchlines can be as slight as a quick observation, for example that the comedian is so unfit that he grunts when he plays a move at chess. It's an aside that carries as much weight as the more sustained, and obvious, routine about clothes shopping with his wife.
The audience, who range from parents who would happily have their daughter bring home someone like McIntyre to lads who would happily have him as their honorary posh friend, are receptive and the evening is lull-free. The show does, however, lack the kind of rhythm that separates it from being really good from a truly great one. Nonetheless, there's no doubt that McIntyre, who has risen faster than most, will have plenty more opportunities, on this grand scale, to bare his soul for laughs.
Touring to 2 December ( www.offthekerb.co.uk)