By Marty Mulrooney
After postponing his scheduled show last September, Rhod Gilbert finally made it to Liverpool last night with a quick apology, followed by an even quicker flurry of abuse aimed at the Philharmonic Hall’s management, various members of the audience and a 12-year-old boy who he was convinced was going to ruin his entire act. He ranted and raved like a lunatic, arguing with hecklers and losing his cool more times than I could count. It was a brilliant opening to the show, setting the tone perfectly. Then Rhod explained that he hadn’t even started his routine yet…
Hecklers can be a nuisance at the best of times. Yet sometimes, a good heckle is great: it can start a chain reaction of banter that makes both the heckler and performer laugh uncontrollably. Rhod Gilbert handled himself very well last night. He deftly ducked and weaved amidst the comments thrown at the stage (sometimes literally, in the form of a note), pleasant and conversational (as far as his persona would allow) to anyone who was shouting merely for laughs. However, anyone with more disruptive plans in mind – such as the idiot who kept shouting “sheep!” – were soon unleashed upon with a sea of rage more often than not topped off with the delightful phrase “bellend”. Public execution has never been more satisfying.
The clever thing about ‘The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst’ is that Rhod explains very early on that the name of the show has nothing to do with the show itself. He then goes on to talk about age-old defence mechanisms such as pooing yourself and getting an erection, his vast annoyance at washing machines, girls moaning when they are ill (men just take a few paracetamol and get on with it) and an anger management weekend he was forced to attend (the first night they all drank some Stella and had a fight). Admittedly, it all sounds like random venting, yet incredibly, everything ties into the name of the show in an immensely satisfying, deeply humorous manner.
Rhod seems to have taken a few more risks than usual with this new routine, pushing his stories further than before and as a result, their basic credibility. Yet to me, he was always playing a sort of exaggerated version of himself anyway, and these stretches of the imagination only serve to fuel his unique brand of anger and outrage aimed at everyday events. Buying twenty-seven hoovers, twenty-six fridges and three new beds may not initially resonate due to its outlandishness, but the punch line – and some freshly burst blood vessels – more than make up for any small leaps of faith required by the audience. How could he do that to a Henry Hoover?!
Rhod briefly mentioned some bad press he had received during his routine last night and I couldn’t help but laugh and shake my head. I don’t see anything wrong with Rhod being compared to Basil Fawlty and surely the criticism that he gets wound up over the smallest things – such as bad press – is mute: he is a performer and will of course exaggerate for laughs. Besides, that’s what makes him so funny in the first place. Signing autographs and posing for pictures after the show, I realised that the real man is a lot calmer and much more friendly than his onstage persona. Which is why his unwavering conviction when screaming about a picture of a pebble at a Spa Hotel seems all the more hilarious.
He finished the show surrounded by a broken microphone stand, a kicked over stool and an audience howling with laughter. In one hand he gripped a can of lager, which much to his dismay, he ended up spilling. In the other hand he held a table and cloth serving as a makeshift suitcase, a joke from an older routine that he had no intention of performing like a monkey for the hecklers. Instead, for several minutes he managed to get an imaginary air hostess arguing with an equally imaginary duvet saleswoman. A mixture of rehearsed material and improvisation, Rhod Gilbert & The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst is a comedy show not to be missed.