Steve Coogan, Hammersmith Apollo, London
We still love to hate the loser in the sports jacket
Sunday 16 November 2008
Given the mixed reception of earlier dates on this tour, with criticism focusing on slapdash writing and half-baked performances, it is a relief that by the time Steve Coogan lands in London he has steadied the ship, delivering an altogether slicker production.
The show, entitled Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters, flags badly when presenting those lesser billed characters. Much of the enjoyment, in particular for Pauline Calf and her "I've had him" refrain, is underlined by old affection rather than any new jokes. A lot of the material feels rather tired. In particular the songs are poor, while knowingly risqué jokes about suicide bombers, Muslims and paedophiles fall flat.
The emergence of Paul Calf, Coogan's foul-mouthed Mancunian drunk, raises spirits considerably. He delivers some funny lines, with Ross Kemp, Stephen Hawking and Calf's bewilderment at the demonising of smokers providing good fodder.
The show's second half is devoted to Alan Partridge and it is obvious that this is what the audience has been waiting for. The new sketches that Coogan places Partridge in aren't in themselves particularly strong, but it is a measure of the brilliance of this comic creation that he remains extremely funny.
The first sketch sees Partridge become a motivational speaker. While this is perhaps a natural progression, it's also a well-worn comic target. A sketch with Partridge performing in a play he has written about Thomas More is quite aimless. Yet Alan just being Alan is still funny. You do wonder, though, how long Coogan can keep returning to him. At one point Partridge goes on an extended riff bellowing his catchphrase "aha" maniacally over and over – perhaps this is a veiled expression of the comedian's feelings about the character?
The show ends on a higher note, with, surprisingly, a song. In it Coogan steps away from his characters to sing about "himself", addressing tabloid
revelations about his private life. In a manner that is the hallmark of the best Alan Partridge material, the song wrings humour from smugness and embarrassment, tackling potentially awkward elements of his personal and public personas, and despite Coogan's much referenced shortcomings, the chorus jauntily concludes with a Monty Python-like shrug of the shoulders. Nobody's perfect.
The song contains some of the funnier lines of the evening and suggests that there may still be fresh life in this comic performer. He just needs to put the old characters to bed and concentrate on a new one: Steve Coogan.
Touring nationally to 14 December
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 3 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence referendum: JK Rowling, Russell Brand, Nigel Farage and more react to the 'No' vote
Jay Z fights lawsuit over use of oh in 'Run This Town'
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Downton Abbey: Liam Neeson wants role as stableman in period drama
The Walking Dead season 5 synopsis: Spoilers and existential questions revealed
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'