Live review; David Baddiel Richmond Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
Most battle-hardened comedians can show off their scars from ferocious encounters with ruthless hecklers. But what if you're heckled by your own mother? Just such a traumatising experience befell David Baddiel at the Richmond Theatre on Sunday night. Mid-way through the second half, Mrs Baddiel took the opportunity to complain about the seat her son had reserved for her. "It's right at the back," she called out from the depths of the Dress Circle. "Why haven't we got the Royal Box?"

To his credit, Baddiel was able to turn his mother's presence into a sharp gag against himself. "Can you believe I did all that stuff about porn?" he asked with some incredulity. The same aura of self-deprecating warmth permeated the evening.

This will have surprised many because, to put it politely, Baddiel has not always attracted favourable notices. Over the years, knife-wielding critics have queued up to stab him; he himself admitted that "I'm the Bad Review King". Near the top of the show, he got his self-justification in first: "If you're a working-class comedian and you talk about sex, you're called 'earthy' and 'Rabelesian'. If you're middle-class, it's 'schoolboy' and 'undergraduate'."

A lot of the criticism has focused on Baddiel's laddishness; an audience- member on Sunday shouted out, "Are you king of the lads?" Certainly, he ran through many routines far too blue for publication in a family newspaper and peppered the act with more expletives than a Graham Taylor documentary. The plaster angels that adorn the elegant interior of the theatre seemed to be covering their ears in shame.

Baddiel's now-familiar fascination with porn emerged loud and proud. He even launched into a philosophical rebuttal of Howard Jacobson's contention that men are unable to laugh at porn - "If we thought pornography was true to life, all men would be plumbers".

On occasions - with jokes about Fred West and Nazis, for instance - he crossed that invisible border patrolled by the taste police and wondered sheepishly, "Have I gone too far?" But he only went too far because he's prepared to bare more of himself than other comedians. "What this is about is honesty; that's what I'm obsessed with," he explained at one point. "I'm unembarrassable. I have a real problem not telling people things about myself." Living up to the title of the tour - "Too Much Information" - he made revelations about his personal habits that even guests on Oprah might have shied away from.

The audience - compromising more women than men and apparently containing only one bloke in a replica football shirt - obviously weren't hung up on how to label Baddiel. New Lad? New Confessional? New Labour? Who cares? They were too busy roaring with laughter.

David Baddiel is at the Nottingham Playhouse (0115-941 9419) tonight. His national tour continues to 27 May

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