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Stephen Merchant Hello Ladies, Portsmouth Guildhall, 6 December 2011



Expectation can be cruel. With a catalogue of shows taking the accolade of ‘my favourite programmes’, (we’ll pretend Life's Too Short isn’t out yet) Stephen Merchant had big shoes to fill - guess where I’m going with this - but boy did the 6’7” giant fill them.

Now I’m always sceptical of the raptuous response touring comedians get; everyone’s there because they’re already a fan and everyone’s in the mood for a good old belly laugh - an easy gig in my book which can hardly go wrong. But Merchant didn’t just deliver the smirks, the chuckles and the shoulder-bouncing laugh-out-louds, which were abundant and more or less constant, there were even instances of the embarrassingly explosive, loss of all body control, red in the face blurts of HAAAA!

As a penny-pinching geek recounting tales of his failure with woman, the gangly genius of Merchant is just hilarious. There was the odd joke that followed a cliché stand-up formula but even they warranted a snigger - his presence, mannerisms and voice alone could have me giggling like a school girl for hours.

There were a number of what many would see as Gervaisisms in his on-stage persona, although I suspect they are just as much Merchant as his squat co-writer companion.

Also to its benefit was the variety of the performance; without giving anything away, the visual aids, audience engagement, physical comedy and even role play all meant the hour and a half set seem to go in the catch of breath.

I could happily watch the exact same show all over again.