Comedy review: Alan Davies - LIfe Is Pain, Venue 150 @ EICC (Venue 150), Edinburgh

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A DECADE after he last performed stand-up in Edinburgh, Alan Davies gently eases himself back in. Vexed that the Olympics are going so well for Great Britain, robbing him of some easy laughs, the 46-year-old instead dwells upon his encroaching “senior moments”, specifically stepping into a room and forgetting why you’re there, suggesting an even more upsetting variant.

Alan Davies – Life is Pain

Venue 150 @ EICC 
(Venue 150)

Star rating; * * * *

Although it is competent observational humour, there is little to stir the blood in this ambling opening. No more stirring is his take on the Mayan prophecy of 2012 apocalypse and the ridiculous attendant movie starring John Cusack.

Only as he reveals the inspiration for his bleak show title – a precociously morbid utterance from a six-year-old – do you begin to sense the grit in the oyster of his comfortable existence. Like the euphemism he employs for ex-girlfriends in his wife’s presence, there’s just the tiniest trace of edge here, with enough prurient interest to suggest he won’t be coasting on his TV personality reputation.

This subsides during an aimless anecdote about his encounter with hippy Buddhists, the dull set-up for a neat quip on an Essex Man’s mantra. But it resurfaces with a vengeance as he explains how his mother’s death when he was a child, plus his father’s emotional inarticulacy, turned him into this affection-seeking clown.

More personal than anything he has shared on stage before, it is delivered with the same amiable manner and casual wit, as adolescent experiences too mortifying for a twenty- or thirtysomething to revisit are wryly offered up from the detachment of middle age.

All too soon we’re back into amusing but well-trodden grumpy old man territory, with Facebook luddite Davies instigating an uncomfortable online situation with his oldest friend. But then he’ll astound you with a surprisingly graphic assessment of contemporary pornography, before nailing the holy grail of the middle-aged, big-name comic – superbly told, relatable routines about his kids that convey just how much he loves and hates them.

• Until 14 August. Today 7:40pm.