Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse are celebrating 25 years as a comedy partnership with this, their first live tour. They have named it Legends! – knowingly bombastic and one of many barbs at vacuous celebrity in the evening. But to connoisseurs of quality comedy, Enfield and Whitehouse really are legends who invented some of the most memorable characters of the past quarter-century. And here they are – the Old Gits, Two Surgeons, the Self-Righteous Brothers, the Dutch Coppers and many more – in the flesh for the first time.
Many would have been happy if the duo had merely re-created their best bits from television and, although a few routines – including the sexist football pundits asking a female match reporter “Where’s the bloke?” – are just that, mostly they have brilliantly updated their characters or put them in new settings, giving fresh life to the astonishing number of catchphrases they have created.
We see how Enfield’s Loadsamoney has fared in the post-Thatcher era (“the poor have got 57 per cent poorer and the rich 64 per cent richer”, so he’s OK) while Whitehouse’s Julio Geordio, one of the first foreign footballers in the UK, is still mangling the English language in a Newcastle accent, but now as a TV commentator.
They pack 30-odd sketches into two-and-a-half hours, the quality of the writing is superb and the live format shows what accomplished performers they both are. There are lots of callbacks and terrific in-jokes (a Muslim character is dressed in a Kathy Burke-a), and even the occasional mishap with a prop or a fluffed line becomes a cheeky ad-lib. Enfield and Whitehouse, in various guises, affectionately tease each other throughout; Whitehouse for his television ads and Enfield for taking a few years out from television appearances. “It’s great to be back with a washed-up partner,” says Whitehouse as Fab FM’s unguent DJ Smashie to Enfield’s Nicey.
But it’s celebrities who really get it in the neck: the pair clearly aren’t fans of Jack Whitehall, Russell Brand or Kate Moss, while the Scousers sketch gives them an opportunity to lay into John Bishop as Enfield’s Terry does a terrific impression of the Liverpudlian comic. And I hope Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t have a sense-of-humour failure because the tour could be over very soon...
Loadsamoney defined a political moment and there’s some sharp satire running through the show; Stavros and customer Jurgen the German explain the EU bailout to Greece through the medium of kebabs and salad, and while we may have predicted that Smashie and Nicey would mention Seventies “sexual malarkey”, the material is very funny. Enfield and Whitehouse are ably abetted by Catherine Shepherd, who plays various roles. There’s the occasional sketch that doesn’t earn its place, but this thoroughly enjoyable evening is much more than an exercise in nostalgia.
On tour to 6 December (harryandpaul.com)
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