Over the last few years, stand-up DVDs have become big business. This Christmas, in particular, it seems like every comedian who’s ever made it onto a panel show has a DVD ready to go into stockings up and down the country. Dave Gorman, fresh off his return to stand-up, is no exception.
Originally, the set captured on this DVD was developed in 2009, touring under the name Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop and Stand Up. As the DVD explains, during this tour Gorman cycled to the four cardinal points of the UK, gigging in the towns he visited along the way. A more conventional tour followed in 2010, and this DVD is the final fruit of the whole endeavour.
But don’t let the project’s origins fool you. Those expecting to find something along the lines of his earlier works, a mixture of travelogue, stats-based humour and the story of one man’s triumph against seemingly-impossible odds,will be sorely disappointed. This show is purely about the jokes.
And therein lies the disappointment. Gorman’s ‘documentary’ style of comedy was so masterfully constructed, marrying his genial personality with emotionally bare honesty, that to find him going back to just telling jokes represents something of a comedown.
Taken on its own merits, there’s nothing especially poor about Gorman’s stand-up. It has a similar tone to his documentary works, good-natured, intelligent and largely victimless, with cross-generational appeal. It even showcases an impish sense of humour and love of practical jokes that was not especially evident in the past.
His command of the stage is impressive, honed over years of live performance, and luckily so, because his strong delivery props up material that is often quite weak. Chiefly, in a world where the best stand-ups are challenging received opinions, breaking taboos and educating audiences, Gorman seems to have no interest in finding a target or cause, only in telling jokes.
The results are a little daft, a little whimsical, but too often utterly toothless. This was fine when he was a storyteller, because human drama lay at the centre of his work. But now, without such a hook, the show has nowhere to go. It ends with some audience participation that labours a little too long, with a payoff so nakedly set up earlier in the show that you could see the cogs working. Tellingly, the Q&A that follows (included as a DVD extra) makes for a far better conclusion, reminding us of Gorman’s true strengths as an entertainer.
It is, of course, unlikely that he would create a modern show with the same passion and intensity of his earlier ones, which were the work of a younger, hungrier man. We certainly can’t expect him to suffer another nervous breakdown for our amusement, nor to spend thousands of pounds chasing bets in the hope he can recoup the losses at the end. But surely there’s something more to aim for than this?
As it is, the ‘new’ Gorman delivers a polished, inoffensive and consistent set of jokes that should entertain most viewers, but at the same time, it’s tough to imagine anyone loving it. Existing fans will probably forgive the tack Gorman has adopted on this venture. But if your goal is to create a fan of someone, the alternatives, both in terms of stand-up DVDs and Gorman’s own body of work, are so much stronger that it’s impossible to recommend Stand Up Live over them.
Aside from the previously discussed Q&A, which provides some great moments of its own, the DVD also features a commentary from Gorman and his mother, and a gallery/time-lapse visual record of his journey around the country. The commentary sounds like a fun idea in principal, but the execution is wanting, with the commentary containing large stretches of silence. What information we get is welcome and interesting, but it’s ultimately too spartan to sustain itself even for an initial viewing.
The gallery, meanwhile, is little more than a well presented curio. While the completism involved in compiling and including it can be congratulated, it isn’t going to elicit many repeat viewings. As it is, this DVD has largely been left to the merits of its lead feature.
Stand-up shows are naturally difficult to supplement, so it’s hard to criticise the lack of material too much, but on the flip side, you only have to look at Richard Herring’s extras-crammed releases to see what could be possible.
As with the rest of the DVD, it’s not a failure of execution that lets the extras down, just the lack of much ambition.
Dave Gorman: Stand Up Live is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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