Ellie Cook, Senior Online Editor, reviews Josh Widdicombe’s ‘Bit Much’ at Plymouth Pavilions.
A very recognisable face, embarking on his new tour, ‘Bit Much’, Josh Widdicombe is a familiar figure for any fan of Channel 4 post-watershed panel shows. Veering away from interjecting quips and bouncing off the prompts of fellow comedians, this tour places Widdicombe decidedly in a solo spotlight.
This Saturday night run was one teeming with ‘oh, so relatable’ scenarios and decidedly domestic gags that, devoid as they were political or social commentary, proved a nice distraction and made for a pleasant way to spend an evening. Preceded by supporting act Ivo Graham’s consciously self-deprecating monologue of his privileged upbringing, the comedic style was to become one of mundane observations wrapped in sarcasm and exasperation.
Widdicombe comes across as a competent, if not wholly confident performer. Stage fright is often inevitable, and it did peek through the cracks of his initial sketches. This subsided as Widdicombe found his stride; in fact, his shyness seemed abated by picking on unfortunate and- only reluctantly talkative- front-row audience member Steve. Singled out by both Graham and Widdicombe, tarantula-tattooed Steve appeared to be the springboard of audience interaction that allowed Widdicombe to settle into his set.
“Widdicombe’s performance had its roots planted firmly in witty or exasperated takes on familiar, everyday experiences”
As most stand-up shows tend to be, Widdicombe’s performance had its roots planted firmly in witty or exasperated takes on familiar, everyday experiences. He twisted through related experiences of his typical routine and did have a knack of collating niche details that he then moulded to fit his various sketches. Whether or not his accountant did, in fact, drink consecutive decaf mochas- denounced as hot chocolates to ripples of audience laughter and smattered applause- Widdicombe did tease more than just the odd belly laugh from the corners of the expansive crowd.
Widdicombe invested much of his allotted time dissecting how his content has now metamorphosed into what he recognises as something aimed at an audience in their ‘late twenties’ or ‘early thirties’. It is a well-worn comedic trope to rattle on about the various stages of a long-term relationship or just how daunting having children is, and this show conformed to this. It was, ultimately, predictable. Bouncing from the fraught world of how to behave at weddings and mastering the art of the mid-range gift, it is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a comedian in their thirties pulling inspiration from their family life. It was entertaining, but unsurprising.
It was a performance littered with jarringly dated references slotted in the spaces between anecdotal tales of creating different, slightly smaller Whatsapp groups for the sole purpose of slagging off a specific member of the larger chat. Perhaps it is just the age gap speaking for me here, but I jolted at the mention of a Sony Discman as the go-to childhood gift, and a passing reference to MSN conjured up a deeply buried early secondary school memory or two. It was Widdicombe speaking to his generation, and some of his material lost its punch to a university undergraduate audience as a result.
“…his humour is innocuous and works to unite rather than divide the room.”
The show was threaded through with clever referencing to previously made jokes that, in dialogue with audience interaction, endeared him to his audience. It was a well-rehearsed show, amusing if slightly formulaic. His comedic style is modelled around the young comedian with an old soul; shot through with notes of mock horror that “the only time you should see four aubergines is in a racy text”, his humour is innocuous and works to unite rather than divide the room. His appearance at Plymouth Pavilions was tinged with sentimentality, as acknowledged by Widdicombe, in returning to his Devon roots. Ending the set with memories of the building’s construction and his first performance there, this sincere closing in front of a familiar crowd earned him a well-deserved rapturous ovation- even if I will personally never agree that gnocchi float “like a corpse on the Thames” when you cook them.