Comedy review: Doc Brown, The Royal Albert Hall, London

 

Towards the end of his show rapper-turned comic Doc Brown (real name Ben Bailey Smith) says that he feels he is “still drifting”and that his career journey so far could still be a work in progress.

Perhaps there will be another twist to the 35-year-old's tale, but for now his transition has been a successful one, swapping working with Mark Ronson and De La Soul for credits on Russell Howard's Good News, Rev, The Inbetweeners and Derek.

Duality is very much the watchword for Doc Brown. He's immensely likeable, but can be too ingratiating, with too much prefacing of some routines. Meanwhile, though he's the nerd that turned away from the excesses of rap (a discipline he defines as “the long, yet determined, struggle not to appear gay.”), he retains a 'street' attitude when it comes to, for example, judging "My Favorite Things" as sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music: “She's saying mittens are better than sex. Come on Jules, don't mug me off.”

Brown's show is also a tale of two distinct parts. For the first 35 minutes of the 80 minute show we're taken on a kind of A to Z of rap's foibles and, bizarrely, without the benefit of Brown's back story in the business really coming through. This context is left to diffuse through a second half where the material becomes more personal and his comedy raps which punctuate his routines take flight, including the catchy "This Aint What I Asked For (I've Got A Semi On The Dancefloor)".

With the loosening of the theme come some observations about the comedian's mixed race ethnicity: “in case you are wondering, my dad was white and my mum was black – the weird way round”. While Brown's often straightforward approach doesn't always make his viewpoint as insightful as he might like, in this second part of the show there are more options available to him to find smart lines like this.

Brown's show as warms as it progresses, though some of the heat is generated because there are two shows rubbing up against each other in the guise of one. The reception at the end suggests that the room – not the easiest to win – is convinced, though there is still scope for change, as Brown would no doubt be the first to admit.

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