Rowan Atkinson live from the NME, 5 April, 1986.
If It Ain’t A Nerd It Ain’t Funny
It is traditionally accepted that comics cut their teeth performing before rowdy drunken louts who have never heard of their entertainer before. The criteria is always the same – if you get out alive, they like you.
After a few years with your name in lights and a couple of dozen television appearances notched on the nation’s funnybone, a show in front of 2,000 pandering punters paying £7.50 a head is a doddle, and many mirth-makers will rely on their good track record to pull them through the bad jokes.
Not our Mr Atkinson; his new revue, cunningly entitled The New Revue, is just that. A month previous at this very theatre, his Not partners in comic crime, Smith and Jones, gave us a greatest hits show with some material stretching back at least five years – quite funny, but quite old.
Atkinson’s two-hour show is brimming with virgin sketches penned by Dick Curtis and that comedy regular Ben Elton, but it is our Rowan who makes it work. All of it. Honestly, there is not a dull moment.
Whether it’s totally-over-the-top caricature like the army officer instructing squaddies on peace camp patrol (“Unfortunately legislation has yet to be introduced which allows Americans to run over lesbians”) or the memoirs of a laconic Irish name-dropper (“Me and Mick go back a long way, in fact it was me who gave him the Mars Bar”), Atkinson combines a credible acting talent with the kind of timing some members of The Comic Strip can only read about.
Add to that his rubbery face and bendy body and you have the nearest thing to a complete comic performer we can expect to see for years.
I must confess to being one of those cynics who sits in shows like this with arms folded saying “go on, you’re a bloody comedian, make me laugh”. Well, I’m still sniggering.