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TV review: Kevin Bridges sacrifices comedy for Commonwealth

Kevin Bridges strolls onto a stage illuminated by a giant Saltire, with the other flags of the Commonwealth peeping from behind it.

This stage show, Kevin Bridges Live at the Commonwealth (BBC1), announces from curtain up that it'll be a fusion of comedy and Commonwealth even though, as he points out, Glasgow hasn't done so well with the wealth part recently, but we're still great at being common.

So he sets the tone: mockery of Glasgow's pretensions in hosting the extravagant Commonwealth Games. Of course, Bridges isn't aiming his jokes at the citizens or the fans, but at the self-important politicians and organisers.

He starts with ridiculing the idea to blow up the Red Road flats, though I suspect every possible joke was wrung out of that scenario long ago so, rather than retread old gags, he says Glasgow would be comfortable with a bonfire where mad uncles turn up in Transit vans, unloading broken wooden pallets and chucking cans of Lynx into the flames. He exaggerates to show the gulf between the impractical, buffoonish planners and the ordinary people who have to live with their decisions.

He then teases his theme wider and shows how foolish the Games organisers must seem to the entire Commonwealth, not just Glaswegians. He mocks the overblown reaction to the so-called 'ticket fiasco'. We all remember when the Games site crashed or there were hefty queues to purchase tickets. The newspapers were hysterical and social media was jammed with people declaring themselves 'outraged' and, as always, there were innumerable uses of that standard phrase dull people use online to express cynicism: 'says it all really.' That awful, weary, ubiquitous phrase! 'Had to wait 50 minutes. Says it all really.' 'Couldnae get four seats together. Says it all really.' 'Sitting here moaning about this to my eleven followers. Says it all really.'

He lampooned this self-important blustering by asking what the Rwandans - 'our Commonwealth cousins' - would have said if told of the horrendous ticket fiasco. 'Sorry,' they'd say. 'I was too busy walking 90 miles to find clean water'. Says it all really.

Kevin Bridges was as sharp and funny as always, and it was great to hear the word 'Scottish' pronounced properly on TV, rather than in the Kirsty Wark/Sarah Smith style as 'scorrish'.

But, alas, this night wasn't devoted to Kevin. He was here as host, introducing us to a series of comedians from across the Commonwealth. He stepped aside, leaving us to a pleasant man from Brighton called Simon Evans. He was swiftly replaced by a London-based Canadian called Katherine Ryan. She was very zippy and energetic, all elbows and teeth, and kept flexing one of her legs. Was this a comedy thing, or a cramp thing? I found her eager, chirpy style aggravating but must give her credit for mocking her teenage crush on Prince William. She said she was as bad as the obsessive One Direction fans but, in this royal case, it'd be more like One's Direction.

In between each Commonwealth comedian Kevin Bridges came back on for short stints, and to introduce the next act, but, rather than anticipate the following comedian, I just felt disappointment at seeing Bridges retreat offstage. He was clearly the star attraction here, and we just didn't see enough of him.

The third comedian was from South Africa and was the worst of the night. He chose to laugh at Glaswegians, saying 'you guys don't have crime!' Apparently, you only suffer crime if armed gangs consistently blow up your cash machines and he laughed at how cute we are in Glasgow with our little itsy bitsy stabbings. No, we don't have real crime, he said. I know this was a joke but it left a sour taste when you consider the recent spate of rapes in the city, or how many young men are murdered, slashed and disfigured due to knife crime in Glasgow. But, ahhhh, we're so cute with our little knives and softy crimes aren't we?

Kevin Bridges then announced the final Commonwealth comedian. This one will be spectacular, I thought. They'll have kept the most exotic for last. He'll be from some far-flung shore. No - the final act was from Moffat and offered weak observational comedy along the lines of 'have you noticed how drunk Glasgow girls walk funny?'

This show was portrayed as a showcase of comedy talent from around the Commonwealth but, apart from the South African, they were all UK-based. Instead of a vast, global celebration it was more like 'who can we get on a cheap day return ticket up to Glasgow?' Also, these comics were chosen for their nationality, not their comic prowess, so it's safe to say they were hardly the funniest acts in town - they just happened to have the right stamps in their passport.

The show should have been devoted to Kevin Bridges, with the lesser comics jettisoned, but then the BBC couldn't have given it the all-important 'Commonwealth' tag, but that label was won at the expense of a right good laugh.

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