Lee Mack gig review

Simon checks out Lee Mack's Going Out tour in Birmingham...

I learned several things from seeing Lee Mack’s Going Out tour at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham last week.

Firstly, said theatre is really very uncomfortable, to the point where I’m reticent about sitting in it again when Paul Merton brings his Improv Chums tour there in a couple of months. Secondly, it seems that half the audience of comedy gigs owns an iPhone (Marcus Brigstocke will be pleased). For, come the interval, it seemed in unison that half the crowd reached for one of these gadgets and contained themselves by staring at it for 20 minutes or so, before the show resumed. It was technological hypnosis at its finest.

The third thing I learned, though, was that Lee Mack is surely one of the finest stand-up comedians in the country. His Going Out show was, simply, one of the best shows of its ilk that I’ve seen in a long, long time.

From the moment Mack took the stage in an opening I’ve got no intention of spoiling (although it clearly didn’t go to plan!), he prowled around it, very rarely standing still and varying his delivery and volume with astounding precision. He owned the room within a minute of stepping foot on the stage, and the tempo only occasionally dropped.

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There were many, many comedy highlights. Again, we’re not going to spoil the prepared material, although will simply relate that it’s tight, very funny and, in the case of his King Of Pop gag, eminently quotable. His audience interaction, though – and crikey, here was a gig where we’re glad we weren’t in the front row – was simply superb.

His audience served him well, to be fair. Take the student doing a degree in MORSE, who Mack ribbed mercilessly until said student revealed to him that it stood for Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics & Economics. Then there was the dance student from Kidderminster College that led Mack to fire out a series of instinctive Fame-influenced jokes. Or the woman on the front row who revealed she was an accountant, prompting Mack to collapse to the floor and start snoring. It was a masterclass in performance in delivery. And just as you ever got the feeling that Mack was winding down his material, he headed straight back to his crowd and promptly wound things back up again. Noone on that front row was safe: claustrophobia, fashion choices, naming of their children – they were all well-mined material by the time Mack was done.

Much was made of the fact that this was a Birmingham crowd, and Mack seemed taken with some of the idiosyncrasies of the venue itself. The bottom line is that I’d wager very few who left said theatre in some pain last week will feel short changed.

The only slight weakpoint of the evening was the support act. Mack chose to do his 90 minute set (including a very, very entertaining Q&A at the end) in one run, and given the energy in his performance, you can understand why. That meant that the first half hour of the gig was given over to Simon Evans, who didn’t do a bad set, to be fair (and his Matalan skit is a corker), but was some way behind the main attraction. Given how uncomfortable the venue was, I’d rather Mack had got straight down to business, although I will check out a Simon Evans gig separately in the future.

For now, if you can still find tickets for Mack’s Going Out tour available, I highly recommend you seek them out. It’s a brilliant piece of work, and genuinely one of the funniest comedy tours of recent times.

Next up? I’m off to see Tim Vine in Birmingham on Friday. Not at the Alexandra Theatre, though, thank goodness…

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