Review: Alan Davies, Cheltenham Town Hall
RACK your brains and tell me the last time you listened to a 46-year-old man ramble about lesbian dogs. Thought not.
More than a decade after he first made a name for himself as a stand-up, QI regular Alan Davies took to the Cheltenham Town Hall stage and proved, without doubt, he is a breed of his own.
In the dog-eat-dog world of the comedy circuit, there were doubts whether the mop-haired funnyman would be able to stand out from the crowd after a prolonged absence.
The 44th show of his whirlwind Life is Pain tour started out in a much the same manner as an episode of Jonathan Creek – the hit TV programme which catapulted Davies to a household name.
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The scene was set, the hyenas had gathered to belly laugh their way through an evening of comedy magic. But the rabbit, no matter how hard Davies tried, would not get out of the hat.
Like a car that had spent too long in the garage, the rust was visible and as he tried to start his comedy engine, there were only splutters of laughter to be heard.
Undeterred by a largely tepid response, he motored on with rehearsed routines involving the Olympics, accident claims, and barmy 'elf and safety regulations. On a bitterly cold evening, things had started to thaw at last.
Shortly before the interval, Davies amused with tales of his school trips and QI facts, before challenging audience members to recall the Roman town buried by the eruption of a volcano in Italy centuries ago, a fitting end to a rib-tickling anecdote.
Quick as a flash, a chorus of voices replied 'Pompeii'. Davies, seemingly on a one -man mission to offend the city of Liverpool, said there had been an awkward silence when he had offered up the same question during a gig in Merseyside.
If things had started to defrost somewhat, they had positively melted after the interval.
Davies rekindled his comic flames in a series of entertaining exchanges with student audience members. And soon, in full anecdotal mode, he had everyone in fits of laughter.
Topics such as family life and the internet bore much fruit. But in the hands of the softly-spoken Davies, it never felt as though we were treading a well-worn path.
And certainly moments in his gig did not shy away from topical controversy – referring to himself as 'prime DJ bait' during a tale where he turned up at school with ill-fitting shorts. Too soon? The laughter suggested otherwise.
Despite some hairy moments, there was enough original material to tip the show firmly in his favour.
Like one of his much-loved TV mysteries, it proved something of a slow-burner with question marks over the direction it would take. But ultimately, it exploded into life and left us wanting more.