Review: Michael McIntyre, 02 Arena

Review: Michael McIntyre, 02 Arena

Michael McIntyre is not really a stand-up comedian at all. He's a That's Us comedian. Or a That's Me comedian*. Or an Elbow Nudge comedian. Sitting in the stalls at the packed 02 Arena every punchline seemed to be accompanied by the sight of row upon row of couples poking each other in the ribs and suggesting that the smart-suited comic must have been spying on them.

For me the ultimate elbow nudge moment was during a routine about MM and his wife trying to cut down on wine. They had vowed not to touch a drop on a Saturday night until one weekend he caught his other half with an open bottle in the kitchen. Well, she needed it for the gravy. My partner regularly cracks open the Pinot Grigio to make gravy when she is trying to cut down on drinking the plonk and I'm sure there were thousands in the audience that do the same.

If you talk to comedians or look on comedy Facebook pages there's a mixture of professional jealousy and grudging respect for the 48-year-old. But even those that aren't fans of his mainstream observational humour will usually concede that he works hard. Compared to other arena level performers he really makes use of the stage. Not just with his trademark skipping but, at one point, with some top rate rolling about. I don't think I've seen someone work this hard since Lee Evans in his sweaty heyday.

But whereas Evans often depended on his physicality to firm up his jokes, the emphasis is on the gags with McIntyre. Macnificent – the tour title is the weakest joke of the show - is packed with funny anecdotes, drawing mainly on the relatable aspects of his home life – mattress squabbles, coping with lockdown, Amazon deliveries. 

This is a set that is presumably well-polished and tightly scripted, yet it is a tribute to his skill that his opening reoutine, one of the best of the night, is pretty new and probably little more than a retelling of events – it's his account of having a kidney stone removed recently in all its excruciating, leg-crossing, eye -watering detail. In his first five minutes McIntyre cements his reputation as an A grade raconteur. 

While I laughed throughout the 80 minute set i was also intrigued by what was fact and what was fiction. While the kidney stone routine felt like pure reportage, other stories were maybe embellished to different degrees. I don't want to give too much away but one anecdote about ordering from the wrong menu in LA does feel like an embellishment too far - even though he still makes it hilarious (and maybe it did actually happen...)

Elsewhere i can well imagine him thinking about grilling an undercooked chicken on the overhead heaters when he was eating outside during lockdown. And his story about avoiding passing on Covid certainly has a ring of truth when we think back to how paranoid we were about infecting each other in 2020. But did he really only discover his wife was not a natural blonde when she couldn't get her roots done during the pandemic?

In the end though, unless you are a nitpicking critic like me it barely matters whether these stories are true. We don't go to a Michael McIntyre show for autobiography, we go to be entertained. And the undisputed king of observational comedy royally does that. 

Touring. See dates and buy tickets here.

Picture: Gary Moyes

*I was originally going to describe him as a Me Too comedian, but I don't want readers to get the wrong idea.



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