Any comic whose opening shot is to quote Larkin automatically pricks the ears. Danny McLoughlin looks everyman enough, and with his matey northern English patter sounds it too, but you don’t drop old moodychops the versifier into proceedings if you’re doing an exercise in straight up observational comedy, and this definitely isn’t.
The Larkin he quotes is the obvious one, This Be The Verse – “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad…” – which becomes the theme he riffs off, but he gives the impression he could quote quite liberally if needs be (even if Phillip (sic) is spelt wrong in the programme). His blasts of laddy casualness mask some intriguing dark depths.
Material on his parents’ divorce has bite. It hasn’t been idly milked; there’s a genuine sting in what he’s saying, even if he reduces his parents’ “fucking up” to him being picky about what bread he eats. Like a hurt little boy choking back tears and assuring everyone “no, I’m alright, I’m alright” to look brave, he’s swatting away painful life episodes with jokes about trivialities.
A segment on Catholic communion really ought to lose the crowd, but doesn’t. He drops in a reference to Whigfield’s Saturday Night while talking Sunday mass, he brings Dairylea Dunkers into a discussion about the Body of Christ. Everyone stays tuned in. This is a constant of the set – puncturing through the arcane with something pop cultural – and it’s very effective.
It’s the same format for the funniest moments of the night. He’s talking of his MA Creative Writing class (oooh, get him!) but then drops a daft poem about his uncle in an unnecessary London geezer voice that keeps it populist. It’s a fine line to tread but he nails it, helped by the cheeky persona.
The crowd is on fire for him tonight. Saturday night overspill from impossible-to-get-into shows at Banshee and the Hive are surely swelling their ranks, but they are finding this no mean substitute. It’d be interesting to see him tested with smaller numbers, but this evening McLoughlin kills it.