For me Addison is most familiar as Toby Right from Armando Iannucci’s wonderful, Oscar-nominated satire In The Loop, for others he’s the chap who replaced Frankie Boyle on Mock The Week and for some he’s the fella who does those Direct Line adverts with Alexander Armstrong. Beyond this though he’s been performing stand-up since the mid-nineties, having been twice nominated for the Perrier award.
This show ranges from rather broad social and political comedy to more insular material about parenting (Addison says he had planned to write a show entirely about parenting but stopped when he realised the target audience probably wouldn’t be able to get a babysitter), sometimes, despite a self-confessed taste for the camp and a strong vein of self-aware middle-class jibes, a certain amount of angry polemic creeps to the surface and Addison can be a surprisingly passionate and addled performer. Quite often it seems that too many thoughts are occuring to him as the show continues, he wanders down tangents and forgets why he’d started, but it’s endearingly confused, with Addison having discovered he has context dependent memory perhaps being in the grand Hammersmith Apollo as opposed to the more intimate arts centres threw him off, indeed his attempts at audience banter are mired by the fact that he can’t hear the audience member he’s trying to speak with! (Not his fault, some people just don’t know how to project.)
Also surprisingly some of his material does scrape along at tabloid-rant level, with a somewhat tired bit about the London riots and people robbing Primark, far more successful in this piece is when he turns his view back to his middle-class family watching the riots on the TV with a glass of wine and nibbles. Elsewhere he mines stereotypes both wittily and awkwardly for humour, his observation that our current world leaders seem like they’ve been created by the writers of Allo, Allo is very funny, whilst his piece about his ability to impersonate a Chinese and a camp German accent is a peculiar dip into how Addison amuses himself at home. Addison does, at one point early in the show, remark that he’s at the point in the tour where’s he’s more focused on trying to entertain himself, and whilst that may seem a little self-indulgent it’s when Addison is clearly enjoying his own material, or giggling at something that seemingly just occured to him, he’s at his most winsome.
For the most part Addison gets away with skating around familiar subjects, he manages to begin a routine talking about his distaste for all the Royals except Prince Philip, which could, so easily descend into a series of ‘outrageous’ things the infamous royal said, but, instead, it becomes a mirror-image of that in which Addison confesses he thinks Philip should be put in charge and draws on how the tabloids, perhaps, mis-represent the things he says and how they’re taken. A list of the lies told by the Express newspaper is also a brilliant, and near breathless, succession of ridiculous, manipulative, reactionary journalism. Likewise one barbed remark about Kate Middleton leaves a strong impression, “The press need a new Diana to replace the one they broke.”
Lies pop up again when Addison engages the audience – rather unsuccessfully (acoustics more than anything) – to offer up some ‘Lies parents tell their children that you believe longer than you should.’ His interest in this stemming from conversations with two friends (both called Rachel) whose parents had told them that (a) a plane’s contrails were so a pilot could see where he’d been when he’s reversing and (b) bungalows were so-called because the builders got bored and the foreman said they could “bung a low roof on it.”
He ends on a piece exploring his own new-found ‘mild fame’ and the fact that he can be a bit of a dick, though the dickish things he describes are very tame at best (either that or I’m a massive dick and I’ve just set the bar too high), whilst he doesn’t bring much new to the table his mannered – and, again, middle-class- tale of picking blackberries with his family and one passerby’s strange reaction is chucklesome, and it is a curious phenomenom how strangers can react to someone they recognise from somewhere but can’t quite place.
Overall, Addison is an entertaining performer, he walks some well-worn paths, but does so with self-deprecating enthusiasm and an occasional line in particularly erudite or even surreal diversions (there was a peculiar hint of Eddie Izzard in a piece about the Queen wandering into rooms she’d never been into before in Buckingham Palace). Perhaps this show is a bit too vague and disjointed, maybe even the show focused entirely on parenting would have been a good idea (!?), but it is – and this is undoubtedly key – very funny, with Addison carefully making sure that even though he may be working in the same field as plenty of his other contemporaries he’s not exactly ploughing the same furrows. A very fun show indeed.
Chris Addison’s The Time Is Now, Again is currently on tour across the UK, see http://www.chrisaddison.com/live_dates for dates.