The laws of stand up hold that childhood diaries are always good for a laugh. The whole 'wasn’t I a daft little so-and-so' shtick provides the impetus for Alex Smith’s attempts to come to terms with not being a ‘real man’. It’s a light-hearted hour, and Smith is not with his charm, but it feels stretched at times, with his material not quite enough to cover the full sixty minutes.
Smith has a lot of things going for him – confidence, charisma, and a good singing voice among them.
Smith lays the campness on thick. There’s nothing wrong with this but the idea that dressing like Russel Brand and taking up a musical instrument as a child makes you not a real man seems a bit thin, especially in the context of the world’s biggest arts festival. Leaving this aside however, the show’s premise is workable for the most part. Throughout, Smith reads from his childhood diaries and, having been written by a boy with theatrical aspirations, it is every bit as cringeworthy as he aims for. Kids do in fact say some of the funniest things and Smith gets some decent laughs from this.
He pads the show out with songs, mostly those he wrote as an adolescent. Cue some comic-horrible love songs and faux-profound ballads. Smith has no problem taking the piss out of his younger self and plays up how much of pretentious twat he once was; at times, he seems almost perversely proud it. It’s not very clear how this links into the idea of manliness however, and some of his observations about middle-class life, decent bits in and of themselves, seem a bit shoe-horned in.
Smith has a lot of things going for him – confidence, charisma, and a good singing voice among them. On the evidence of Real Man though, it seems that joke writing isn’t near the top of that list. At the same time, you could do a lot worse than spend an hour in his company.