Andy Parsons recently had a son. He was pleased that the boy looked like him – until he realised that all infants look like him. The baby-headed team captain from Mock the Week brought his touring stand-up show Live and Unleashed – But Naturally Cautious to the intimate setting of Bristol Old Vic’s main house: an excellent venue for comedy, incidentally, packing a healthy number of punters into a space which still puts you up close and personal with the comic on the stage.
The show does not have the arc or theme which is the familiar staple of the full-length show nowadays. The first half is a patchwork quilt of first-world problems, as Parsons – a warm and engaging performer with a good crowd rapport – skips from topic to topic with often tenuous links to justify the segue, from the benefit of the elderly doing drugs (“if morphine can make you feel better when you’re close to death, how much better will it make things when you’re just feeling old?”) to the terror of the high diving board. It’s funny, but it does feel like a compilation of Mock the Week segments rather than a coherent whole.
The second half is more consistent, as Parsons launches into an extended riff on politics which blends a mastery of facts with a cascade of digs at the current government. It’s odd that such an avowedly left-wing comic should limit himself in this way: there are enough comedians, from Marcus Brigstocke to Mark Thomas, who can easily fill an entire evening with this kind of stuff and the audience – with a surprising predominance of grey hair and a perhaps less surprisingly high preponderance of totally bald heads – lapped it up.
Maybe Parsons feared that too much politics would antagonise a broader demographic. The clue may lie in the title of the show, yet by being ‘naturally cautious, the end result is a pleasantly entertaining evening which doesn’t quite achieve the lift-off that it could have.
Andy Parsons played Bristol Old Vic on Sunday, November 15. For more upcoming comedy gigs, visit www.thecomedybox.co.uk