It’s been three years since Josh Widdicombe, star of BBC’s ‘Mock the Week’, ‘Josh’, ‘Live at the Apollo’ and Channel 4’s ‘The Last Leg’ released his debut stand-up DVD, ‘And Another Thing’, and fresh from a summer spent at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the undisputed master of the exasperated British gripe returns with aplomb in a long-anticipated sequel that not only makes par with its predecessor, but exceeds it.
Observational comedy has been a heavily saturated arena in recent years, with each stand-up comedian able to turn even the most mundane of tasks into a source of mirth. Widdicombe, however, finds a refreshing niche in his style of delivery, elevating his tone and adjusting his stance with each gripe as if to personify the frustrations of every twenty-something as they attempt to navigate their daily routines. Despite delivering some jokes at speed, Widdicombe makes it almost effortless to sit and listen as he vents, commanding the empathy of the audience through the nature of his material.
He manages to effortlessly integrate his anecdotal content along a hilarious sequence of observations, comparisons and self-depreciating humour. Whilst a noted source of his comedy, Widdicombe’s rural background also stands to reinforce his reliability with a sizeable part of his audience. His true strength, however, lies in being able to delve deeper than other comedians in his field, bringing his observations down to a level of almost micro-comedy. For example, Widdicombe is able to string an entire stream of jokes simply from the frustration at not being reminded by Pret A Manger staff to get a spoon with his yoghurt, complete with a mock attempt at satire, the reference to the awkwardness of meeting distant acquaintances on public transport and a hilarious anecdote from the friend’s perspective observing Widdicombe’s breakdown as he attempts to mix the two segments of his Muller Corner with his own tongue.
The rest of his set is consistent with this theme, identifying small yet instantly relatable aspects of society – highlights include likening the splitting of a train in a station to the separation of families in Berlin during the Second World War, the inability of flat-mates during your 20s to complete the basic functions of being an adult, the difficulty of rescuing a CD from a laminate floor and poses his thoughts on the unacceptable nature of turbulence as an aspect of air travel.
‘What Do I Do Now?’ has a strong production value, capturing Widdicombe’s visual comedy from an array of angles that not only present his comedy in a justifiably excellent light, but also draw the viewer into the mood of the gig through the inclusion of his ad-lib audience interaction. I was lucky enough to see Widdicombe’s set live earlier this month in Brighton, where he managed to accidentally prey upon a recently redundant member of the front row making his way back from the bar, before attempting – in vain – to find ‘Terry’ a job before resuming his set. In theory, those ingredients don’t scream ‘first-class comedy’, but somehow Widdicombe manages to pull it off as though it were scheduled comedy. Were it not for the fact his DVD sees him tackle a cohort of Sainsbury’s employees instead, I would almost have been suspicious that it was.
Though the main feature is seamlessly put together and well delivered, the DVD falls down slightly in its bonus features, which contain the consistent theme of Alex Brooker insulting Widdicombe during the setup process for the recorded gig. Though not the worst bonus features ever produced, the videos fail to give much more insight into the gig than a glimpse at the recording equipment or Widdicombe’s dressing room, and the five short videos leave you wanting to laugh, but ultimately sat in silence. A behind-the-scenes look at the extensive tour Widdicombe took this show on, or a recording of the warm-up sets of Widdicombe’s support acts – in Brighton, Ivo Graham charmed audiences with his self-deprecating jokes about attending Oxbridge – would have made more substantial viewing than the handful of references to the Hammersmith Apollo being smaller than the O2 Arena audiences were eventually presented.
That shouldn’t take away from the main show, however, and Widdicombe returns to the shelves of supermarkets with a defended record, having delivered a second successive knockout show that will undoubtedly see his audiences swell even further in years to come. Certainly one worth putting on the Christmas list.