Comedy: He came, he saw, he threw some lovely pots
Sunday 22 March 1998
From the moment he propels himself on to the stage in a wheelchair - think a youngish Ironside after one too many Thanksgiving dinners - he mesmerises the audience. And an hour and a half later you are still watching, and still laughing at a man who is "not a comedian, but an entertainer". He achieves this through a winning mix of love and hate. Vegas loves the ladies and he woos them with his analogies: "In a street full of churches, I'm an alcoholic and you're an off-licence." "We're in the zoo of ethics and there's a sign above the cage saying, 'Do not feed the animal'."
These and other chat-up lines were munificently delivered to anyone who caught his eye until Johnny discovered there was a potter's wife in the audience. Vegas was smitten. It was out with the flash chat and in with the poignant moment as he said into her eyes, "It's so refreshing to find a member of the audience I can talk to these days."
Then, there was the hate. Vegas's targets included the press, obviously, for, less obviously, hounding his good friends Ken Barlow ("just because he's a great character actor doesn't mean he's boring") and Tom O'Connor ("doing the cruise ships and doing very well"). He also had a pop at the television executives who had come to check out "the potential of a pissed- up potter". "You're not even fur coat and no knickers, you're shellsuit with the crotch cut out, " said Vegas. A comment which at first glance may appear to have knocked his telly career on the head but, given the self-hatred rampant in the higher echelons of the industry, will probably gain him a six-part series.
The most hit upon target, however, was John from Beckenham, a cocky blond with a very odd chin. Vegas started by pointing out the obvious: "My big advantage is that I'm more pissed than you. You can call me what you like and six seconds later I'll forget it." He then went on the attack: "Stop trying to get laid on the back of my work." Before finishing him off with, "You are a suburb of silence on a road called respect. Shut the fuck up." The intensity of Vegas's attack was doubled by the fact that it was delivered from a wheelchair.
A bad night for Beckenham John. Earlier things had looked promising when he had successfully heckled supporting act Alan Wilde off the stage. For this John received the audience's gratitude as Wilde was so poor that Vegas had to deny that he'd only been booked to make the star look better. Having caused an early interval, Beckenham John was hugely happy. After it, Vegas taught him an elementary lesson - never bully someone smaller than you if their elder brother is coming to the playground later on.
Before Wilde, there was Dave Johns, who opened the show with an excellent set. Sure, there was one gag nicked from Kingsley Amis (Barber: How would you like you hair cut? Customer: In complete silence.) But to plagiarise Kingsley rather than Martin Amis shows fine taste and not a little style.
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