As the Sue Gray report – or the long wait for it – again dominates the headlines, whither the comedian who leaked his own version of it, four months ago? That stunt, which caused “mass panic” in the corridors of power, is one of several revisited in a touring show by the nation’s favourite prankster, Joe Lycett. Inviting the Lord Mayor of Birmingham to open his new kitchen extension, trolling the low-rent brands who ask him to endorse their products online, Twitter spats with Alan Sugar … all are reprised with slides and footage on an upstage screen and in-person commentary from the joker himself.
It’s not a brand of live comedy that puts the emphasis on liveness. Much of the funniness is located in the past; we’re just hearing about it (and watching it on a screen) after the event. And the show never really builds up a head of steam. It’s constructed around a stunt – a campaign, even – that Lycett has been working on for years, the details of which we’re asked not to reveal. It makes for a heartwarming tale, rooted in Brummie Lycett’s civic pride, and his outrage when protests were mounted locally against LGBT teaching in schools. But it’s not, comically speaking, his biggest-hitting stunt. It lacks an authority figure for Lycett to needle and wind up, and the cloak-and-dagger business it involves feels superfluous.
If the show remains consistently enjoyable, we can thank Lycett’s good-eggishness, and the contagious delight he takes in his often puerile tomfoolery. When he writes a guide to gay sex for infant readers; when his painting is hung in a gallery next to a ridiculous list of the materials (“ghost goat’s milk”) used in its creation; when he tweets lovingly in support of the PM and is retweeted by Nadine Dorries – it’s four parts silliness to one part revelry in the opportunity for weapons-grade impudence that his celebrity presents.
One might wish for more in-the-moment material, less dependent on stunts and tweets Lycett has already (and often publicly) dispatched. But there is no denying this stuff was funny first time around, and Lycett’s arch commentary and bonhomie make it all the more so.
On tour until 23 September
Touring Joe Lycett