Anyone who can wear a duffel-coat and still get called a sex symbol must have serious charisma. The sartorially challenged Alan Davies has wardrobes full of the stuff.
The proof on Tuesday night was that after a few minutes of his full-on charm we had completely forgotten about the naff set - a regrettable mixture of remaindered backdrops from Battlestar Galactica and net curtains - and his even naffer vomit-green trousers.
Davies's "Urban Trauma" show at the Duchess Theatre does not cover earth- shatteringly original ground - British travellers getting the runs in India, anyone? - and he too often relies on the Carry On rule of comedy: if in doubt, fall back on a bodily-functions gag. Nor does he set the world alight with incendiary topical humour; how many years out of date is a reference to John Gummer feeding his daughter a hamburger?
But that scarcely matters. Davies radiates so much amiability that he hardly needs artificial lighting on stage. Even when he's being offensive - he reckons, for instance, that in the phrase Countryside March "there is one very important syllable" - you can't get riled because he's so goddam likeable.
An almost old-fashioned "one man and his mike" stand-up who eschews gimmickry, Davies picks out the absurd details of everyday life with the accuracy of a miniaturist painter. He muses that Green Lanes, a defiantly urban road in north London, only ever lives up to its name "at midnight on Saturday when everybody is chucking the salad off their kebabs". Davies also has fun with the futility of Olympic events. There should be more to the long jump, he contends; officials should position "a load of toy cars buried in the sand, and you've got to develop an amusing scenario with them in under a minute".
But Davies is just as strong when he rambles into Eddie Izzard anthropomorphic territory. Perhaps, he speculates, cows are merely faking BSE-induced madness in order to avoid being turned into burgers. As the scheming beasts cook up their scam, "the piece de resistance is to remain standing despite impending rain. The other cows go, `that is a masterstroke. That is the maddest thing imaginable'." He goes on to riff on the idea of his cats capturing mice - just to show Davies how fast the rodents can run. "Alan," they cry, "get a bucket and we'll do a wall of death."
By his own admission, he doesn't know how to end his set. "I meander shambolically to a close and then just get off." But nobody seemed to mind on Tuesday, as Davies shambled off with rapturous applause ringing in his ears.
Alan Davies's "Urban Trauma" is at the Duchess Theatre, Catherine Street, London, WC2 (0171 494 5540) until 14 March.Reuse content