Monday, 10 September 2012

Live: Jerry Seinfeld @ Manchester Arena, 12th May, 2012 review

Have you ever noticed how stand-up comedians observe things about everyday life and then use them as the subject matter for jokes? The master of observational comedy, Jerry Seinfeld returned to the UK for his first performance in Manchester in over a decade at the Manchester Arena on May 12.

Few comedians share Jerry Seinfeld’s knack for turning the trivialities of our mundane everyday lives into such a rich source for the absurd and ridiculous. Few comedians can command an entire arena, having everyone hanging off his every word and creasing with laughter without a second’s notice. And few comedians make it look so effortlessly easy.

Comedian Frankie Boyle once declared that that no-one over 40 should do stand-up, as the old comedians lose their edge and their anger. Looking at Jerry Seinfeld move around so animatedly on stage, it his hard to believe that he is almost 60 years old. Contrary to Boyle’s crude generalisation, Jerry Seinfeld still has his edge and anger faculties perfectly intact. His jokes are a rollercoaster of emotions: from an almost dead-pan set-up, to high-pitched squeaks of indignation bordering on the ranting excesses of comedians like Billy Connolly, but always remaining in good spirits.

There were a few jokes in the set that did not translate well to a British audience: jokes about adverts for prescription drugs and the effects of Gatorade and 5 Hour Energy drinks were easy enough to get, but were difficult to relate to. The gags were still good enough for the audience not to turn on him, and when he realised that the material wasn’t working, he quickly moved on.

His best material was about being a married-man and a father: his observations about relationships were hilarious. In one gag, he compared his marriage to a game show in which his wife would ask him questions about trivial events and the smallest of details about their lives together, and that every week she was “the returning champion”.

The set was free from politics and bad language, but this is not to say that the material wasn’t adult in theme. His jokes at points verged into some very dark monologues about death, murder and suicide. What I really liked was that he didn’t resort to the usual shock tactics of a lot of modern day comics. He didn’t take to offending vulnerable groups (ironically, of course), he wasn’t crude and he even avoided making jokes about sex. His jokes were clean, but not for kids.

Jerry Seinfeld is an excellent comic: his jokes are hilarious and clever, and his timing is impeccable. I’m not usually a fan of observational comedy, but he is so good at what he does that you are laughing too hard to notice.

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