The Royal British Legion in Lerwick was packed out last night with nearly 200 folk turning up to see the diminutive, continuous-talking comedian Jeremy Hardy perform for over two hours.
Not bad for a star of the radio, the “Home Service” at that. The Legion seemed to offer the right atmosphere. Before the gig, promoter Davie Gardner, he of Shetland, said he was well chuffed with the turnout. It seemed there were a lot more Radio 4 listeners in Shetland as you might think.
Known for his appearances on “da wireless”, especially The News Quiz on Friday nights, the comedian cruised through two hour-long sets (he claimed jokingly to be “a really good listener”) with a stream of consciousness.
He was continually flowing, covering his observations on everything from pubic hair and the “UKIP zombie apocalypse” to Tony Blair’s strangeness and many other weird and wonderful things in between.
In a style which seemed bereft of him taking any breath, he gave the audience of mainly 50-somethings, a barrage of nostalgic, left-leaning observations on the state of the world, with a healthy irreverent interpretation of the world we live in and the weight of silliness that lies within it.
One of his best lines was “like asking Alex Salmond to look after your pie while you go for a slash”.
The audience lapped it up and Hardy, with just a mic and a bare stage, managed to keep the audience with him for the hours with remarkable ease. He made it look easy.
He did run out of steam occasionally, but that has to be the nature of his element of improvisation – he has been in comedy since his 20s.
He joked about the size of police officers nowadays and made reference to his own stature. Five foot six? I doot he’s adding a couple of inches there.
There is a laconic nature to his voice but he managed to spice it up with accents. The Shetland one, however, was a general Scottish one, which he didn’t manage so well as his Irish efforts.
Having been in Shetland for a day as part of his tour of the Highlands and Islands, he was well impressed with the thought of going to Tesco “to see seals”. Were the sea mammals being employed as shelf-stackers perhaps? He also wondered if we drank “puffin passed liqueur”.
Most of his set was about bigger issues in the world, seen through comedy, and you had a reassuring feeling that this was a man who had just popped out of the radio, especially to be there with you. You could identify with his frustrations of a “boy at a bad age”.
He is not perhaps the biggest comedy star (Peter Kay reportedly demands a fee of £45,000 a night) but Mr Hardy didn’t even need Mr Laurel to take the audience with him.
Such was his flow of often caustic and entertaining observations, covering all the hot topics of the day, that it was hard to believe it was only a Tuesday night and not the weekend.
It did get a bit personal at times, especially when talking about his late mother, and when he felt the need to swear for no apparent reason, it didn’t really add anything to the general flow.
Some considered it to be a bit of a marathon from just one performer. A warm-up act might have helped the evening along somewhat. Just a thought.