Clive James in the Evening
Assembly @ Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
…..This is James at his most engaging, digging a little deeper into the culture, being unashamedly intellectual. (“Nietzsche rarely gets a mention in standup shows …”) But there’s not enough of it. Despite his early disclaimer, he is often just trying to be a comedian. There are jokes about George Bush and about James’s love of M&S clothes – which are fine, but which squander the qualities that distinguish him from standup comedians.
These routines also foreground James’s less lovable tendencies: his high self-regard and his lechery. I am no more interested in the “natural advantages” that he says wear out his Y-fronts than in his thoughts on women’s beach volleyball. Far more engaging to hear how great music induces in him feelings of inadequacy, which feels like honest self-revelation rather than macho raillery.
Long time admirers of James, such as myself, have tended to play down the “less lovable” tendencies, but they are there and they can annoy.