Lee Mack, Invention Studios, Bath

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The Independent Culture

A short film starring, among others, his fellow comedians Harry Hill and Dan Antopolski introduces Lee Mack to the stage on his tour. Lee Mack, the Early Years is a fictitious, Beano-style tale of how he became the first seven-year-old stand-up comedian but fell from grace because of an addiction to sherbet - and that isn't a euphemism for nose candy. The cheeky charm of the film accurately reflects its subject's charisma, and the sugar-rush from the story carries on when Mack's taut frame bounds on to the stage.

A short film starring, among others, his fellow comedians Harry Hill and Dan Antopolski introduces Lee Mack to the stage on his tour. Lee Mack, the Early Years is a fictitious, Beano-style tale of how he became the first seven-year-old stand-up comedian but fell from grace because of an addiction to sherbet - and that isn't a euphemism for nose candy. The cheeky charm of the film accurately reflects its subject's charisma, and the sugar-rush from the story carries on when Mack's taut frame bounds on to the stage.

Mack had the excellent comic Rhod Gilbert to thank for warming up his audience, and leaving them simmering for his act. The northern star of ITV's The Sketch Show followed his Welsh colleague with a nice patter about the easy way to understand gymnastics scoring (it's all in the stumbling, he contends) and geared up at each turn; a section on how Christianity might have been even more popular if only Jesus had taken a happier approach to crucifixion; then an explanation of why England were always going to win the rugby world cup, observing that in Jonny Wilkinson you have the names of the two most masculine products on the market.

It was around this point that the energy seemed to drop, the pauses became slightly pregnant and a group of neanderthals on the back row started to get restless. A number of weaknesses came to the fore; a prolonged engagement with audience members on the front row paid little dividend; Mack's tone became rather blunt, and set pieces such as his take on the 12 days of Christmas went awry and were rushed in an effort to get back on track. But get back on track he did and built up to his inspired, nay legendary, section on adverts, particularly the French perfume parody.

Mack believes, quite rightly, that a stand-up show should be no more than an hour long, support excepted. It is quite fitting that a comedian would want to leave people wanting more. Unfortunately, his encore was over-long and unfocused. Worse still, Mack committed what I now consider to be a cardinal sin of stand-up comedy - the initiation of a Q&A session. It's one thing to elicit banter along the way with audience members but to structure it like this rarely works. I've seen Ross Noble, a master of improvisation, do this reasonably well, which should be enough to make everyone else think twice. In this instance Mack let the neanderthals straight in through the back door and really didn't have much of an answer to them.

Mack is at a premium at the moment, what with his forthcoming television debut in the US with The Sketch Show, brought to Fox by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, and also a Radio 2 series to be aired after Jonathan Ross's Saturday morning show. With that kind of momentum, Mack looks likely to achieve notoriety away from his live comedy roots, and despite this particular show being something of a mixed bag, those new to the Mack shtick would be well advised to catch him on tour.

Touring to 13 March ( www.leemacklive.com)

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