Alan Davies, Assembly Rooms, Scotsman Assembly

Same for a laugh with the telly bloke
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The Independent Culture

It's not often that you hear a comic taking requests. It's a strange idea though you might also say it is a privileged position to be in. It does, after all, suggest a level of fame that most stand-ups can only dream of. But Alan Davies isn't a stand-up any more, he's a bloke off the telly.

You could almost call him an actor except that he doesn't seem to do much in the way of acting. He just has to talk with that endearing lisp and shake that cute, curly mop of his and television executives reach for their cheque books.

But back to the requests. Davies isn't ashamed. He tells us he hasn't done this for a good few years and that he's out of practice. Even the festival programme is apologetic. His Edinburgh shows are billed as "The first gigs from a once brilliant stand-up who couldn't be arsed." This comes with a warning that the show may contain some old material.

On one side of the stage there's a table with a glass of water and a notebook containing an index of themes – some old, some new. Every 15 minutes or so Davies shuffles over and scans the list muttering "Done that. That's rubbish. Nope, that didn't work last night." He begins with that oft-asked question: "Are there any Scottish people in the audience tonight?" For the ensuing hour he shares his thoughts on the election, Big Brother, football, fox-hunting and the royal family.

It's hardly cutting edge though that's not to suggest that it isn't funny. Davies has a way of breathing new life into the most mundane material. His finest moment comes when he rips into Jeffrey Archer and his recent incarceration. It's nothing that we haven't heard before – jailbird Jeff is clearly a festival favourite this year. But it's fantastically cruel and for the first time Davies looks as though he's enjoying himself.

Still, it's the safe stuff that people want. When he finally cajoles the audience into shouting their requests a few who can muster the enthusiasm yell "Cats" and "Dogs", referring to two of his antique and well-loved routines. So we get five minutes on the innate deviousness of felines and another 10 on the innermost thoughts of his neighbour's dog. Depressingly, it's this blatantly recycled stuff that gets the biggest laugh of the night.

I suppose there's a certain comfort to hearing the old anecdotes, like listening to a band wheeling out their hits of yesteryear. But, given that tickets for Davies's show are more than a tenner, it's hard to shake the feeling that we're being ripped off. If he can't be bothered why should we?

Venue 3 (0131-226 2428) to 16 August, 22.00 (23.25)

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