★★★★ JOHN BISHOP, O2 Everyman comedy with a hint of subversion
John Bishop was last on tour three years ago and he tells us that this show, Winging It, was inspired by two things that happened in the intervening period. Not the obvious Brexit (although it does make an appearance), but in that time he has passed the 50 landmark and his three sons have all left home.
Bishop's calling card is laidback observational comedy, and as befits someone who started late at this comedy lark – he's celebrating 10 years as a full-time stand-up, having made the jump from being a rep for a pharmaceuticals company – he never forgets where he came from, a Liverpool council estate. Not that his mates, all friends from his teenage years, would allow him to, and one of the most enjoyable sections of the show is about a road trip he took with them a while back.
The joke is always on him as he describes a meeting with is hero Bono
It's a long and meandering tale, but has several payoffs to make the journey worthwhile, and while a story of a hugely successful comic being starstruck when meeting other celebrities could quickly pall, it's a testimony to Bishop's genuine nice-bloke credentials that he pulls it off with style. Besides, the joke is always on him as he describes meeting his hero Bono.
Much of the show – bookended by a very funny video karaoke and a sweet collection of family pictures that neatly tie up all the show's punctuation points – is unchallenging humour that flows over you like a warm bath.
But alongside the authentic Everyman material there are hints at something more steely lurking within, as Bishop addresses the royal family and Brexit. He lauds the former while fashioning a deliciously subversive subtext, and with the latter – “Half of you voted the wrong way” – he releases the tension in the room by cleverly turning it into another tale of domestic strife.
In the second half of the two-and-a-half-hour show Bishop contrasts his sons' seemingly freer sex lives compared with the constraints placed on his generation's couplings – and older members of the audience can wallow in nostalgia for mixtapes and slow dances while younger fans can enjoy his bafflement at dating apps. It also contains a forensic takedown of the barely believable Channel 4 dating show Naked Attraction; goodness knows it's an easy target to mock but Bishop fillets it with ill-disguised glee in a terrific piece of comic writing and performance.
There's the occasional flash of his early days as a club comic in a blokey aside or an unnecessarily sharp putdown of a friendly heckle, but Bishop delivers an upbeat and entertaining show.
- John Bishop is touring until 9 December
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