Sean Hughes - Penguins

Classic stand-up comic Sean Hughes is worried he’s past his best. He shouldn’t be. Despite the demeaning comments about him written in the Sun, comments which form the starting point of his set, he is on fine form.

On a stage that looks like the set of a children’s programme, wearing a dress the presence of which is never fully explained and accompanied by music from Dexys Midnight Runners, Edith Piaf and The Human League, Hughes pulls off an eclectic and hilarious set with a clever structure and a box that contains all his life’s secrets. Also, penguins are involved.

His motormouth delivery is both sharp and convincing. So much so that an extended comparison of sex and olives only seems strange in retrospect. At the time I thought it was as natural as comparing a girl’s face to a flower or a fat man in a yellow shirt to a taxi. Such is the power of Hughes’ sometimes silly, sometimes brilliant rhetoric.

In accordance with the Irish stereotype, Hughes commands a masterfully poetic turn of phrase; for instance he rejoices ‘she made my brain pulsate’ and ‘her eyes burnt into my soul’. Such phrases are sufficiently packed with the teeming, shimmering anticipation of love to ensure that Hughes goes far beyond the banality of most comics when they talk about their girlfriends. Every relationship is an opportunity for salvation and also inevitably for perdition. It is this emotional anchor that succeeds in making the jokes a notch above the rest. We genuinely believe there is a human being behind every self-deprecating punchline and every awkward anecdote.

Hughes’ audience was a fairly mature crowd and he played up to that fact well, though there were times when this lead to him being a little too patronising to anyone under the age of 29, ‘You guys who download…you’ll never understand the glory of records.’ Time, like penguins, tends to march, sometimes falling, sometimes looking for fish, but always waddling on. After all ‘Do you remember when’ comedy is so last year.

Despite this, Hughes very rarely misses the mark. Sophisticated and silly, he certainly stands out from the crowd.

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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The Blurb

Is a man the sum of his parts? Tackling all nature of human foibles in whirlwind hour that takes in older brothers, The Human League and an Italian hooligan. Watch as they combine to mesmerising effect. Total joy.