Granted, he was grumpy as ever tonight, despite affecting po-faced ignorance of his miserable reputation and persecuting tradesmen for their trivial slights against him. But his encore was genuinely memorable, not so much for his return with guitar as the bluesy, tuneful poignancy he wrung from reeling off all the dead-end jobs he endured before getting into comedy.
Like a seasoned pro, the 51-year-old modified stories’ location and dates to afford them a more local, contemporary appeal, quite obviously so in places. But whether decrying the government’s advice on alcohol consumption or musing upon the troubled teenage years of Jesus, far from his most assured routines, he offered fleeting mention of his own struggles with drinking and religious faith.
So while he was on surer ground bemoaning a celebratory Titanic exhibition and his role as a luckless “passenger” who fails to survive the experience, or piquing interest with a routine that’s a “little bit racist” about providing directions in London, reaffirming his misanthropic persona while toying with political correctness, the more intimate material proved a richer, more interesting seam.
When he married the truly personal with his trademark withering scorn, in discussion of his manipulative daughters or moping sons, the humour was that much more resounding – and all the funnier for it.
Rating: * * * *