It’s hard not to like Funmbi Omotayo. As well as being open and affable, he has the air of a man who’s comfortable in his own skin. So it’s no surprise that he has no qualms about making himself the butt of his jokes.
Omotayo manages to deal with uncomfortable subjects intelligently, and imbue them with warmth.
Omotayo swiftly establishes himself as someone who, at specific times, has been an uncool outsider in not just one, but three cultures (Black British, mainstream British and Nigerian). And in so doing he introduces the set’s themes of race, identity, belonging and acceptance.
He gets off to a good start with some decent gags about the gentrification of Hackney, his London stomping ground, possible alternative trust exercises for kids being initiated into gangs and a spot on response to a police officer’s idiotic comment.
But a surprising amount of his hour is devoted to London-centric material which might not be instantly relatable for those who live outside the M25. And what he chooses to focus on also seriously lacks topicality. The crimes of Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and footballer Ched Evans all get a mention. (Which would leave you lost if you’d somehow been unaware of the media-stoked hysteria surrounding the latter’s rape conviction and unsuccessful efforts to find a new club.)
And there’s a momentum murdering change in pace and tone about halfway through the set. Although there’s no denying that the section where he relates his family’s move to Nigeria when he was ten is interesting, it drifts into the realms of almost joke-free storytelling as opposed to stand up. So he loses us, realises he’s lost us, flounders, dips in and out of some ineffective crowd work and then abruptly brings the set to a close.
It’s a shame because Omotayo manages to deal with uncomfortable subjects intelligently, and imbue them with warmth. He delivers his anecdotes and stories at an enjoyably relaxed pace, and his joke about male athletes being presented with bouquets at the Olympics, shows that he’s capable of great observations. He just needs to freshen up his routines and tighten up his writing.