I have always enjoyed Clive James as a TV personality and occasionally, when I can be arsed, as a writer, so when I read his article in G2 I figured I’d see what his attempts at stand-up might be like. Unfortunately, he more or less admits defeat at the outset of this show, telling us straight off that there are “other people out there” who can do the modern, quick-witted style of stand-up much better than he can. He tries to excuse himself by saying that he hopes that he brings a sense of “the world” to the show which will make up for this, but the trouble with that as an argument is that there are plenty of stand-ups who do engage with the world at large, and have all the other presentational slickness James admits he lacks.
It was pretty telling that I think I was the youngest person in the audience by a good twenty or thirty years, a couple of days into the run of the show. Clearly there was little buzz about the show attracting anything other than an audience of loyal followers. Nonetheless, I can think of worse ways to spend an hour; occasionally, James is genuinely hilarious, but the overall effect is of a slightly half-arsed attempt, the main intention of which is to sell his new book. Which is all very well at the book festival, but not really if you are listing yourself in the Fringe guide as a comedy show. The show seemed self-indulgent, because I find it hard to believe that someone as intelligent as James couldn’t have written a better, sharper stand-up show if he really wanted to.