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David Baddiel - Fame: Not the Musical
Published on Wednesday, 07 August 2013
3

3 stars

Assembly George Square (venue website)
Comedy
31 Jul, 1-9 Aug, 7:30pm-8:30pm; 10-11 Aug, 3:30pm-4:30pm, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

What life is like for the famous – the premise for this show – is a rich seam for David Baddiel to mine, even as a man less famous now than he once was. Despite some enjoyable set pieces, Baddiel isn’t really willing to let go of his laddish 90s comedy shtick to make this the thoughtful show that this could have been – and that’s a shame.

Explaining his public persona, Baddiel says it’s odd to see a version of yourself you don’t recognise. For him, it’s a combination of a lager-swilling lad and an intellectual – or more specifically, a Jewish intellectual.  In fact, the show’s best moments came when he skewered the media’s sly anti-Semitism. But the components of the media version of Baddiel don’t seem to connect in this show, as he veers from being very smart to crassly funny. He seems reluctant – or maybe unable – to be clever and funny at the same time, producing interesting insights but relying for laughs on relaying abusive tweets, and reworking his old ‘what C am I?’ routine.

And for all that Baddiel rails against fame, the benefits are in evidence throughout his show. Fame has brought him money, a nice life to share with an adorable family (who feature in the show) and, most famously, an invite to Russell Brand’s celebrity wedding. It seems he wants to have his fame cake, eat it, and then not have photos of him wolfing it down posted online.

At the end of show Baddiel shows a picture of him and Rob Newman at Wembley Arena, performing the famous History Today sketch. Comedy arena tours are commonplace now, but this was a first, at the height of the ‘comedy is the new rock and roll’ hyperbole. It wasn’t the new rock and roll, and the Newman and Baddiel partnership ended soon after in assumed animosity. Baddiel doesn’t talk about that part of his career at all, except to say the image is poignant, before moving on to tell a story about a groupie with a punchline that is pure slut-shaming.

I felt that Baddiel isn’t really willing, or able, to show us the fleshy man behind the glittering curtain. He’d rather make crude jokes than honestly examine the price of his brushes with fame… but at the same time, he wants us to believe that the media alone constructed his laddish boor persona. He tells us the truth is complex: that a real person can’t fit into the simple narrative fame demands. But, by the same token, the story of what fame is really like doesn’t fit well into the narrative demanded by Baddiel’s rather old-fashioned stand-up.

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