Posted by: Richard Frost | 20 Apr 2020

Steve Coogan comedy gig review

Original publication date: November 2008
Outlet: Hive Magazine

As any stand-up will tell you, there’s nothing quite like testing material in front of a live audience. Delivering the same punchlines night after night can sharpen up even the flabbiest act faster than a million practice sessions at home. But that leaves one major problem. Those early performances run the risk of being, to quote Steve Coogan’s creation Paul Calf, “a bag of shite”.

Just such a problem has plagued the Middleton comedian’s new tour, Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters. At the opening night in Stoke, The Telegraph lambasted a “mediocre shambles”. In Derby, audience members watched incredulously as he blatantly read jokes off cue cards. And in Liverpool, there were heckles and a mass walkout at the interval. So would there be another car crash of comedy at Manchester Apollo?

Thankfully, no.

After 20-something dodgy or downright disastrous performances, Coogan has finally pulled a decent show out of the fire. Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge… is a success – though by no means a triumph. Well, it’d have to be something pretty damn special to make you forget about the £35+ ticket prices.

Poster from the 2008 tour Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters

Act I
The first act features Pauline Calf, Saxondale, Paul Calf and Duncan Thickett. In all honesty, this is fairly average, with a few cracking lines and a nagging feeling that none of these characters were all that good in the first place.

Value for money?
A generous person might pay £10.

Act II
The second act is where we get what we came for – Alan Partridge. Radio Norwich’s finest was always going to be the highlight of the show, and Coogan duly pulls out all the stops. Resisting the temptation to recycle old lines (“Wings – the band the Beatles could have been” and so on), Coogan imagines a whole new future for his star creation. Partridge is now a life coach using his extensive knowledge of bouncing back to help no-hopers like Ross Kemp and Gok Wan. It works a treat, giving Coogan the chance to exhibit his full range of catastrophic interviewing, tone-deaf singing and moronic presenting.

Value for money?
The performance is too short (show me one person here who’d rather watch Duncan Thickett than Alan), but still worth £20 to a hardcore Partridge fan. Me, in other words.

For the encore, Coogan pokes fun at his tarnished public image, following a string of salacious tabloid scandals. Cue the Mary Poppins-esque song and dance number, Everyone’s a Bit of a C*nt Sometimes. It’s immaculately choreographed and enables Coogan to finish on a high.

Value for money?
Worth another £5.

Now audience members at his early shows (ie the first 20) might argue Coogan was “a bit of a c*nt” taking £35 for an act that was clearly half-finished. After all, has he never heard of warm-up shows? But at least he’s learnt his lines for Manchester, which bodes well for the rest of the tour.

Value for money?
If you’re a diehard Partridge fan who knows his Blue Nun from his Lexi, you’re probably willing to pay through the nose to see him live. In that case, £35 is just about worth it. But if you don’t think Partridge is the greatest comic creation since Blackadder, steer clear.


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