If there had been a spot for stand-up in the London 2012 closing ceremonies, it would surely have gone to Michael McIntyre.
He is the Coldplay of comedy - posh-sounding peddler of arena-friendly, inoffensive, everyman shtick, loved and hated for it in equal measure. And love him or hate him, like Coldplay, the figures speak for themselves: half a million tickets sold, and counting, for this 71-date tour; 2.5million DVDs shifted so far; a Christmas special watched by seven million.
This gig is the first of a mammoth 10-night run at The 02, but he’s not complacent. “It’s very hard to get arenas to applaud”, he says near the start of the first of two 45-minute halves, his megawhite smile turning briefly to a pout when a joke fails to fly.
Not that hard if you’re Michael McIntyre, surely. As he ascertains with some odd, self-serving audience interaction, many in the 15,000-strong crowd booked their tickets over a year ago. He’s among friends. And yet, when he bounds onto the stage in his trademark too-tight black suit and surgical-looking Prada trainers, things feel a bit flat, a bit effortful in the vast space. He’s not helped by a face mic which picks up on every last puff and wheeze, making him sound breathless and a little off the pace.
The slow start is mainly down to some hasty observations about the summer of 2012 - a mildly amusing montage of everything everyone has been saying on Facebook about the Games and the Jubilee for the last few months, with the added punchline “Team GB!”
He warms up when he moves to comfier, more familiar ground - the amount of time it takes women to get ready, social graces, online booking forms, occupying kids during the summer holidays (“I’ve coloured Wally in”, he admits. “But we really needed some time to ourselves.”).
Sometimes, as in a brilliant deconstruction of the 50/50 sexiness of tights or a quickfire cocktail party for people whose names sound the same but are spelt differently, he spins these hoary old topics into orbit, with the help of some irresistible physical clowning. At other times, he coasts along, scattering glib, occasionally glittering, observations along the way. “What happened to paperweights, eh?”
You don’t split your sides, but nor do you ever stop smiling. It’s all very pleasant. The exception is a virtuosic closing 20 minutes about a trip to the dentist, numb mouth and all, which becomes a deliriously enjoyable sustained drama. He returns seconds later for an encore riff on hotels.
It’s classic McIntyre - instantly relatable, neatly done, just original enough. He’s certainly not the first person to find tiny hotel kettles irritating, but he’s the only one in The 02 to have made millions, and millions laugh, out of sharing his irritation - and it would be churlish indeed to hate him for that.
To 28 September (0844 856 0202) then touring to 3 December (www.michaelmcintyre.co.uk)