Comedy: All droop for Julian Clary

When you go to see Julian Clary, you expect to hear a few risque jokes. But there was one ad lib about the fun he could have with three schoolboys which left everyone in the Vaudeville Theatre speechless - including Clary himself. He had phoned the baby-sitter of a woman in the audience, and it was she, over the theatre's PA, who made the evening's most scandalous joke. Nor was she the only member of what he called "the general public" who out-Julianed Julian. Safely seated towards the back of the stalls, I'd hoped to witness some barbaric mutilations of paying customers' egos. But it was the audience who improvised, while Clary's banter put the limp into limp-wristed. A spectator would tell him his or her name or job, and he would raise an eyebrow and say: "I'm sure I could make something of that." By the end of the evening, I wasn't so sure that he could.

In the opinion of some critics, this West End run sees Clary stepping into the sequinned slingbacks of Edna Everage. But on the night I went along, he was nothing like the Dame. Barbs about the punters' "cheap clothing" draw blood only if you're wearing something shockingly eccentric or overwhelmingly stylish. Clary was in khaki jodhpurs, a white T-shirt and red braces, and there was only so much authority his fashion critiques could muster when he looked as if he should have been presenting a mid- morning television show for the under-10s.

The scenery was just as tacky, offering pantomime gaudiness when Clary's innocent, supercilious manner requires lavish glitz. On either side of him stood an eight-foot tall version of those toy flowers you could buy a few years ago which wriggled around in time to music. These had to jostle for space between a pram, a doll, an acoustic guitar, a telephone table, a stool and a medical screen.

Evidently, Clary had spent a lot of time dreaming up gimmicks for his show - but not much time working out what to do with them. The guitar was picked up for just a single strum (to accompany a highly amusing Lighthouse Family medley, admittedly). The result was a fragmentary show, with too many undeveloped ideas; the scribblings on the back of an envelope, instead of a full script. If he had picked fewer topics, but delved more deeply into each one, it would have been a much more satisfying experience for everyone.

The stand-up's standby of bedroom inadequacy was seen from a fresh angle, with Clary detailing his experiments in heterosexuality. He'd learnt all sorts of novelties - taking your clothes off before you have sex, for instance. "How do you find the time?" he marvelled. But as with all his routines, he flirted with the subject for a minute or so instead of taking it all the way, and soon resorted to saying, "I'm sure I could make something of this," while paging through a sex manual.

All very taboo-breaking from a student comic, but from a 38-year-old veteran, it raised fewer laughs than you'd hear at the average comedy club - or on the average episode of All Rise For Julian Clary. In the current series, he balances cheek and charm with effortless dexterity, slipping into the mantle of Larry Grayson. He's ruder and cruder than he is onstage, too. All we get from the live Clary that we can't already get from the TV Clary is a few excruciating songs and some creaking double entendres. Yes, if you start off by saying your butler is named "Jism", then the appropriate jokes come gushing out - but isn't that cheating?

To be fair, the show was rescued by a glittery, feel-good finale; and to be fairer, Clary mentioned twice that he was on antibiotics, so his fluffed lines and uncharacteristically blunt wit could well be rectified before the end of the run. If they aren't, a notice should be erected outside the theatre: Julian Clary is unwell.

Vaudeville, WC2 (0171 836 9987), until 3 Jan.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?