Jon Richardson, Apollo Theatre, London


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The Independent Culture

Richardson has a lot to get off his chest. Dirty skirting boards, children’s artistic ineptitude, olives – life is just one hardship after the next for the Lancastrian comic, whose latest show feels more like a therapy session than a stand-up set.

The 8 Out of 10 Cats team captain and Stand up for the Week host undeniably has flashes of brilliance, but these tend to feel lost under the ever spewing displeasure he takes in, well, everything. When Richardson hits his stride, he is confident and engaging, titillating the crowd with tales of heart orgasms and misplaced chakras.

It is moments like these, where the anecdotes foray into wacky, untrodden territory, that cement his status as Channel 4’s diminutive darling. But then comes a tirade about his housemates’ inability to recycle cardboard, and it becomes hard to differentiate him from that miserly cousin twice removed who sits in the corner at family reunions kicking the dog.

Neuroses can and do make for good material, but the gripes are too drawn out to sustain the audience’s interest. Richardson’s extensive idiosyncrasies are a regular feature of his work, and his recent documentary A Little Bit OCD scratched beneath the surface of what is clearly a very personal and pervasive issue.

His current approach to these concerns in his set, though, feels less like poking fun at his habits, more reeling off his biggest domestic bug bears in a number of strange voices. The scope for laughs is not fully realised, and an overly long rant about correctly arranging the knife drawer fails to reach the comedic heights that he is evidently capable of.

After resolutely deciding that trying hard in his twenties was a waste of time, and that taking a stand against social issues is futile, it is no wonder we are left with a series of kitchen complaints and stale musings on hitting the big 3-0. When Richardson betrays these inclinations, however, he is devilishly funny, and his modern reimagining of well-worn fairy tales (where Prince Charming is impressed by Cinderella’s mammaries, but not her lowly status) is among his best work.

This, and his failed attempts at feminism, are real crowd-pleasers, but they do not feel long enough to savour before the humour returns to the anxious and adolescent. Richardson is certainly a talented performer, but for a man obsessed with perfection, there is still some way to go.