It was, he explained, the biggest night of his life. Looking around the heaving arena, it wasn’t hard to believe. For any stand-up comedian that was a serious crowd. I’ve previously made my feelings about The O2, at least as a music venue, very clear. However as Rav and I had booked these tickets back in January (fortunately he reminded me yesterday since I had entirely forgotten) I found myself there tonight for the biggest gig of Michael McIntyre’s life.
I’m a big fan and rather in awe of his sudden rise to such stratospheric fame. As you might expect, he was hilarious, though somewhat unusually the second half of his set felt significantly stronger than the first. The material felt fresh (by which I mean I hadn’t seen it all on TV before) but some of the observational humour seemed to miss its mark – I’m not certain of the intelligence required to point out the unnaturalness of plants inside houses when I’ve been railing against it for the past decade.
The chief problem was still the venue itself. Its size is a massive disadvantage particular with a comedian like McIntyre because (as his fans will know) half of his humour is derived from his facial expressions and/or hair. This means for the full effect one cannot look directly at him, but rather must focus on one of the screens, with the result that one often feels they may as well be watching at home. To his credit he played up to it, actively engaging the distant rear seats, and it’s certainly an impressive sight to see a single man keeping an crowd that size in constant laughter. He wasn’t aided by a triple echo that reverberated around the arena, though it was amusing to experience the laughter/applause that seemed to roll around the audience in waves rather than the usual ripples. Perhaps most worrying of all, however, was a long segment in which he discussed the removal of pants in a gym. It’s a sign of just how long I’ve been spending in the States of late that it took nearly five minutes to realise he was talking about underwear and not trousers.
Penny Arcade’s review of Windows 7 is decidedly succint, if not entirely inaccurate. Having had an experience with the Release Candidate so good that I installed it on my primary computer, I am pleased to say my experience with the final product has been (aside from a brief issue with Belkin’s wireless drivers) even smoother. Wandering home through Waterloo station I was impressed by Microsoft’s launch advertising which appears to be their most accurate campaign yet, highlighting how the changes in Windows 7 are simply what users have been asking for. It’s nothing massively innovative or original, it’s just what people want. In some ways that is what separates it from Apple (though I am not about to suggest this is what has characterised Microsoft over the years; if anything the opposite is true), which feels the need to tell people what they need from and how to use their technology. For the last generation perhaps it is true that users could not be trusted with such decisions and needed to be told. Now, as we all become increasingly familiar with technology, that approach seems just a little bit backward.
Forever’s Not So Long is a fantastic short film that I’d prefer not to spoil by summarising. It is, after all, only 13 minutes long. I would humbly suggest you can find a (baker’s) dozen minutes in your day to do yourself the favour of watching it. It has the effect I often find with short stories, making me wonder whether many good “full length” products are actually still overlong for their content. One could easily see this being extended into a considerably longer film, and yet when the credits role we have seen absolutely everything that was necessary. It is no less thought provoking for its brevity and anything more would risk detracting from its simple poignancy.
It also makes me very curious to see the 2005 short film that spawned this year’s longer cinematic version of 9, a post-apocalyptic animated film directed by ex-WETA animator Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov. I have heard a few people suggest the less fleshed out original is actually the stronger of the two.
Not much in the way of news. While my flatmate Anna is away I’ve found myself generally exhausted rather than making particularly good use of the extra space. I’m finding that having someone around in the evenings probably adds some much-needed post-work energy. I’ve spent a few nights playing Uncharted on the PS3 and swiftly found myself agreeing with the excellent reviews it received. It is easily one of the best exclusive game on the system to date with its cinematic flair, colourful art (a welcome change from the traditional grey and brown palette of most early games in the current generation), likeable scoundral protagonist and a fun if unoriginal storyline that runs somewhere between Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. With its sequel just weeks away, my hopes are certainly high.
Last night I went with Rav, Angie and Andy to see comedian Ed Byrne performing at the Vaudeville Theatre. Even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ll probably know him as the likeable long-haired Irish guy from Mock the Week. In terms of fame he’s a decidedly mid-level comedian and he knows it, so he plays off it. His observational humour runs the gammut but, having married just over a year ago, wedding commentary was rife. Which, with Andy’s wedding preparations just taking off, was hilarious. Much as this may sound like a veiled insult, Ed’s set was both better and more consistent than I had expected.
Finally an interesting piece on how the security in Snow Leopard, Apple’s latest version of its OSX operating system, is still playing catch-up with Windows Vista.
Apparently the US financial crisis is now so bad that Americans have given up on racism.
-Russell Howard on the American presidential election
Finding myself unexpectedly free on Tuesday evening, Rav came through with an extra ticket to Live at the Apollo, stand up comedy being filmed in a hurried attempt to fill the void left by Jonathan Ross’ suspension. Needless to say the Ross/Sachs debacle was referenced several times, usually followed by the words “there’s no way this is making the cut!”
The performers were Sean Lock, Jason Manford, Russell Howard and Jo Brand (they were filming two episodes back-to-back given the tight timeframe) — excellent value considering the tickets were free! Sean is like every family’s amiable joking uncle. There’s an occasional harder edge to his comedy and his likable meandering belies a sharp wit. Jason Manford’s set felt tighter if not actually funnier. He seems like exactly the sort of bloke you’d like to hang out with and have a beer except that apparently he doesn’t drink.
I always find Jo Brand disappointingly inconsistent. There are some very funny moments when she does stand-up but they are hidden between large amounts of filler. Her self-deprecating fat/feminist humour works well in short bursts on panel shows but wears thin at length.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Russell Howard. I have always been a fan despite the occasional tendancy of his overenthusiastic delivery to get in the way of his jokes. Impressively, he easily maintains that infectuous energy throughout and it rarely derailed him. Perhaps most interesting, given the deliberate childishness of his delivery, is that he now has a point — Russell has a clear message underlying it all as he rails against those in British society who relish in their own needless anger, entirely oblivious to the realities outside their comfortable world. A child can be funny in a meaningless way, but a child with a point might actually convince people to change.
If like me your strongest memory of Minority Report is the futuristic gesture controlled computer system, and you’ve spent the past several years waiting for it to appear, you need to see Oblong’s g-speak. The first half of the demonstration video will blow you away, while the latter seems there largely to pad it out.