Baddiel: party like it isn’t 1999

Simon Thomson
Menier Chocolate Factory
Four Stars

REMEMBER David Baddiel? Of course you do. He did The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Fantasy Football League, Baddiel and Skinner, and the Euro96 anthem Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home). After a 15 year break, and aged almost 50, he is back with stand-up, reflections on fame and jokes about masturbation.

He used to be massive, but he’s taken a bit of a break over the last decade or so. Sure, he’s written a few novels and made a few films, but he hasn’t maintained the public profile he enjoyed as an icon of lad culture back in the mid-90s. And that’s the starting point for his new show, Fame: Not the Musical. Baddiel has first hand experience of Fame’s flare and wane; he understands its effects and can explain it with illustrations drawn from his own life.

This isn’t your Michael-McIntyre-prancing-about-like-a-demented-garden-gnome-and-getting-all-up-in-your-face, stand-up comedy. It’s hardly stand-up at all. More like one-sided banter, albeit with a mate who has lots of great stories about awkward encounters with celebrities. Inevitably there is name-dropping, but it’s all in the service of a considered examination of the reductive nature of fame and the ways in which it can destroy empathy. Which sounds as if it would be incredibly grim and depressing, but it’s done with a lightness of touch and humility – especially regarding his own encounters with “starstruck” members of the public – that regularly produces belly laughs.

There’s some old material here – anyone who listens to Radio 4 panel shows will recognise some of the stories about his kids – and the interactive element, where he encouraged a Twitter conversation with the audience, fell a bit flat. But that’s the worst that can be said about the show.

With anecdotes and observations ranging from the highbrow, to the crotch, Fame: Not the Musical is an unexpected pleasure.