Chris Addison Live Review @ Middleton Arena (Middleton) - 14 Feb 2010
Looks can be deceiving. Chris Addison - star of BBC2 shows The Thick Of It and Lab Rats, amongst others - is 38 years old, which is hard to believe. On stage at Middleton he looks like a giant sixth former - all arms and legs and big hair. Much like his Thick Of It character, civil servant Ollie, Addison sounds and looks like a posh teenager and is clearly well educated.
All things considered, if you were plotting to win over a Sunday night east Manchester crowd, you'd probably want to avoid looking too young or sounding too clever or posh. But Addison isn't at all afraid to be himself and has put many of those thirty-plus years to good use, meeting the challenge head on.
Chris Addison is a settled family man and an accomplished, successful comic actor. But don't mistake him for a player who has made his mark reading other people's funny scripts and who now sees himself as a stand-up. Having courted the BBC and Hollywood for five years or so, Addison is back on the road where his career began more than 15 years prior - doing stand-up in Manchester. And, to boot, he's a Manchester lad.
For many visiting comedians, a tour date in yet another city represents a chance to lazily reference local landmarks and stereotypes in an attempt to curry favour with a partisan audience. The result is all too often a bleakly transparent and cringe worthy device which smacks of desperation and serves only to highlight a lack of imagination.
Addison has no such problems - references to his days at Manchester Grammar and his experiences of the region are genuine touchstones and he quickly establishes that he is to be taken seriously. A quarter of the way into the 90-minute show and he is already working the crowd into the palm of his (massive) hands. He is polite and self-effacing, and seems acutely aware of what the audience must have been thinking as he took to the stage (that he looked like a huge, posh schoolchild). He mocks his middle class-ness as well as his physicality and appears to keep any ego well hidden.
Stories of school days and journeys to the gym are admittedly safe ground for the stand-up comedian but Addison has an extraordinarily likeable stage presence and his tales of being crap at sport as a child and bullied by gym staff as an adult resonate and entertain.
After the interval, he talks about the 'rider' that visiting performers often require, making clear that such extravagances are very rarely requested by the artists themselves. To illustrate the point, Addison brings the vast array of sandwiches left for him in his dressing room out onto the stage. There's enough to feed an army or, at least, an audience and the comic hands them down to the stalls where they are shared out. He's not daft.
The second half of the show is faster-paced and edgier than the first, but no less funny. And Addison isn't scared to challenge his audience. Routines about the BNP and Catholicism (not together) begin with one or two shifting uncomfortably in their seats. His own views on both topics become clear but he is not soapboxing - these are two of the funniest sections of the show.
Key to his success is that he has already shown the crowd that he can be one of them - he couldn't have gotten away with railing against religion in the first half when he was a weird gawky youth. But an hour in, he's local-lad-made-good and it's all fair game.
And that is the key to his success tonight and probably every other night of a UK tour that finishes in Bolton on April Fools' Day. Be in no doubt, Chris Addison still looks like the geeky, lanky kid that attended Manchester Grammar School in the 1980s but he also possesses a razor-sharp wit and an acutely alert mind.
He misses not a beat tonight. There's not a foot out of place - his comedy is, at every turn, beautifully timed, well judged and expertly executed. Those six-minute slots on the BBC's Live At The Apollo do few comics justice and certainly not Chris Addison.
Go and see for yourself - you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
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