If Kevin Bridges isn’t the biggest stand up in the UK, he is certainly the best. Down South he may be eclipsed by the likes of Peter Kay or Michael McIntyre but here at Glasgow’s Hydro he is the city’s favourite son, performing a record 18 nights at the 13,000 seater venue.
He’s straight into politics from the beginning, commenting on Brexit and Trump. He wears his politics and intelligence lightly, one of his key skills being the ability to make a sage point or be thought-provoking without seeming worthy or hectoring. Unlike a Mark Thomas, he understands his job is to make people laugh first and foremost, and he certainly knows his audience, putting the words of Trump into a racist Glasgow taxi driver, or comparing him to the bam in the pub on a Saturday night; the one you shut down with “You enjoy your night now,” and scarper.
He imagines a future where Scotland teams up with Northern Ireland, voicing an advert extolling the virtues of a nation state for those who “like their hatred irrational.” Oh, yes, the S word. Bridges’ every-man persona appeals to a broad church, and there seems to be some tension in the air when he mentions politics. He calls out the audience’s frustration, saying, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to do the referendum again in the Hydro.” The crowd is more comfortable with his childhood anecdotes, scenes of family life, or surreal moments where he muses about how happy a dog would be if its owner was made homeless; “just me and you together outside all the time!” He bashes Facebook and irritating smug social media posts and muses that the youth of today will never have to experience the character-building effects of asking somebody to ‘get off’ with you and being rejected. He contrasts this later with the more grown up but equally awkward prospect of asking an acquaintance to go on a ‘friends date’ with you.
Bridges can do the call backs; the punchlines which pop up again, and although it seems effortless, this is carefully crafted and perfectly executed. However, it’s refreshing for a comedian to dispense with the tiresome themed show (this is simply titled Brand New) and makes a welcome change from the laboured, self-referential skills-on-show style of ‘Comedian’s Comedians’ such as Stewart Lee, or more recently James Acaster. Like his hero Billy Connolly, Bridges has funny bones, and there is a joy to his act; in sharing the minutiae of life with an audience who grew up in the same city. This is no more on show than in the last segment, an observational riff about waiting for a Chinese take away from the Happy Panda on a Friday night, the family pacing the floor and peeking through the curtains for the sound of wheels. It brings the house down, and quite rightly so – this is comedy of the highest quality.