Off the box and off the boil

COMEDY

HAS THERE ever been a television programme quite as intellectually and emotionally satisfying as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's Shooting Stars? I don't think so. Memories of Ulrika Jonsson pluckily downing a pint of beer in four seconds, Mark Lamarr being concussed by a giant watermelon and John Peel being obliged to cram himself into a tiny pram will live on happily for many years in the minds of all who saw them.

Successfully populating their warped imaginary world with real-life John Cravens and Little & Larges might well be Vic and Bob's crowning achievement. It is some measure of the joy of Shooting Stars that all the crimes committed in the name of the celebrity gameshow are redeemed by it, even the career of Nick Hancock. Small wonder then that expectations are running high in the Hammersmith Apollo foyer - you could cut the atmosphere with a spoon - before the Weathercock Tour 1495 hits the stage. Once the show is underway, part of its title at least starts to make a strange kind of sense: 1495 is when the material dates from.

After some preliminary rolls of thunder and their trusty voiceover man intoning "fog, Twiglets, water", Vic and Bob launch into the song about cottage cheese that began their last series - "It's not really a cheese, it's a residue, but it's a residue that's good for you". Experts in the audience can tell you where they first saw or heard just about everything that happens tonight. There is nothing unusual about top comedy entertainers being too busy to get around to writing new material before heading out on tour, but Reeves & Mortimer fans are used to being spoilt for innovation.

Given that Vic and Bob's material is woven from a complete understanding of the etiquette of entertainment, and the bulk of their audience have stayed with them because they share some of this understanding, the possibility of feeling slightly short-changed by them is an uneasy one. And the sense of alienation is magnified by the diminished intimacy of the live setting (ie not being able to look right into their unhealthy faces like you can on television). This is one reason why an attempt to use a member of the general public to recreate the magic of Shooting Stars' true-or-false round ("True or false, OJ Simpson is a murderer?") just does not come off.

Once adjusted to the fact that this is effectively a greatest- hits set, there is plenty to en- joy. I never expected to see demented folk singers Mulligan & O'Hare again, let alone the Man With the Stick and Greg Mitchell the erotic labrador. The saucepan fights and the giant garlic press work well - even Charlie Chuck's extended filler routines have their moments. And whether you think the Bra-men are a poignant vision of north-eastern manhood struggling to cope with the demise of heavy industry, or just two men in donkey jackets convinced that everyone is looking at their lingerie, the resilience of their allure is undeniable.

There are some people to whom even classic Vic and Bob tropes like "A cup of tea so hot it was fire" will always remain inscrutable. If you turn off the simultaneous headphone translation of Issey Ogata's British debut at the Lyric Hammersmith you get some idea of how they might feel. Ogata, 42, is a big star in the East and there has been some confusion about how to sell him here. An early attempt was "The Japanese Mr Bean" but this was soon abandoned, presumably after people began to ask themselves "What next, the Norwegian Hitler?"

Unquiet American Eric Bogosian is probably the most instructive comparison. Like Bo- gosian, Ogata uses his extraordinary command of vocal and physical nuance to plumb the depths of frustration and misery attainable in ordinary lives. His "City Life" show presents a gallery of Japanese characters - a commuter, a salesman, a tourist - struggling to make sense of lives in a world where individuality is considered a liability rather than an asset. The man stranded on a Hawaiian beach between the conflicting demands of his wife and his mother is by some distance Ogata's funniest creation, not least because it features a translation of delightfully Reevesian absurdity: "You've got a face like a torn arse".

Reeves & Mortimer: Apollo, W6, 0171 416 6080, tonight; and touring till Sun 29 Oct.

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before