It's supposed to be fatal to explain a joke, but Kevin Bridges doesn't seem unduly anxious that he's going to kill his comedy.
Introducing the first episode of his "wee telly programme" from the back of a cab, he explained that he would be going behind "the jokes to show us their real-life origins". What this means in practice in Kevin Bridges: What's the Story? is clips from a big arena show interspersed by little documentary fillers, and last night he focused on the origins of his career. The format presupposes some degree of curiosity about what lies behind the public facade of Kevin Bridges, which was a bit awkward in my case since I'd never heard of him at all. Frankly, pretty much anything I learned was going to be a revelation.
The stage performance struck me as being pretty straightforward observational stuff, that familiar stand-up appeal to universal experience that seems to go down well with the crowd even when barely a fraction of them can have been through what the comic is knowingly sharing. But Bridges is likeable enough and – an essential quality for a stand-up – gives a strong impression that he's not putting up any kind of front. The format helps with that. Revisiting his childhood home, he reminded his mother about the moment he'd first said he wanted to do stand-up, and teased her about her set dressing. "It was in this kitchen," he said, "Before it got painted. For the BBC. You've even got fruit in the bowl! When was the last time anyone ate fruit in this house?"
The most surreal section concerned a visit to the US to meet up with Chad Hogan, the Utah namesake of a stereotyped American party animal who features in one of Bridges's regular routines. Bridges's schtick was about the Hollywood clichés of sophomore misbehaviour, all of which the real Chad seemed to have devotedly fulfilled but for the alcohol (Chad was a Mormon). Chad thought that Kevin was "frickin" funny, but their meeting turned out be a slightly strained affair, as if neither man could work out which of them was being treated as a freak show. "When is spring break?" Bridges said, as he tried to make small talk with Chad in the diner next day. "Oh... March... April," replied Chad. "Spring then," said Bridges.
He's more at ease back in Scotland, though there was a strained moment there too. On stage, Bridges cracks wise about an abortive three weeks spent studying psychology, which ended due to a disagreement with Sigmund Freud over the Oedipus complex. "He's never seen my mother," he said, "a lovely women but you'd never ride her into battle." Following that up, he visited a real psychotherapist and the two of them traded silences for a while – or real questions and jokey replies. "Have you ever experienced true heartache?" she asked him at one point. "Of course I have," he replied earnestly, before it got too much for him and he had to add a zinger: "Get a bottle of Gaviscon and you're fine." Not all that far behind the jokes then.
I'm not sure you could kill the jokes in Roger and Val Have Just Got In by explaining them, because there is nothing really to explain except a vague prevailing mood. Beth and Emma Kilcoyne's two-hander returned with Roger fretfully facing an unfair dismissal tribunal and Val excitedly looking forward to an interview for a deputy-headship. As before, they bickered, they procrastinated and, rather sweetly, bucked each other up. And then, right at the end, Roger looked out through the net curtains and saw something that appalled him. Given the way the characters regularly confuse the banal with the earth-shattering it might just be a wilting plant, but it would be worth watching next week either way to find out. It's so low-key it's almost not there, but what is there is great.
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