I have to admit that it took a lot of nagging from Mrs B and OMB before I got into Miranda Hart’s eponymous TV series. For some reason they loved it and after endlessly watching and rewatching the three series on DVD when outvoted in the living room eventually I grudgingly gave into its rather old fashioned blend of silliness, catchphrases and slapstick. I suppose it was inevitable after Miranda used Mrs B’s “world’s worst joke”. Not because Mrs B sent it in or anything like that, just because they independently came up with it and so showed a certain alignment in their senses of humour. For what it is worth, the joke goes: Knock knock – Who’s there? – Doctor – Doctor Whoooooooo! Rubbish really, but it makes us giggle and in Mrs B’s defence she’s a Chartered Accountant rather than our leading prime-time TV comedienne.
Anyway, when I saw Miranda was taking her stand up show on tour it sounded like a good idea as a Christmas present and it provided a first chance for us to go to the brand new Leeds Arena. The Arena itself is pretty impressive, certainly a nicer place to go than my memory of going to gigs at Wembley Arena. The nature of such venues is that they encourage you to look at the screens more than at the performer directly, although we were sat close enough to be able to do both. Stewart Lee has satirised Arena gigs as paying a load of money to go and watch people off the telly on big tellies but while superficially right enough, it isn’t the damning critique it sounds – one could just as easily make the same point about going to watch football at modern grounds with screens showing replays of the action rather than just staying at home and putting on Sky Sports.
The show itself was OK. She started with a bit of audience participation to recreate the ambience of an upper-class party, which warmed the audience up. Although it was mocking posh people, it was doing so incredibly gently and almost apologetically. This is unsurprising considering that Miranda herself is about the poshest person most in the audience would be likely to come across. Class war isn’t going to go very far in a country where thousands can go to Leeds and laugh along to the idea that posh people, bless ’em are just adorably silly. Not that that is a bad thing.
Otherwise, the set was fairly unmemorable with lots of fart gags and catchphrases from her TV show. The one (probably) unscripted part was her attempting to matchmake audience members either side of the interval where she ended up with two men, one of whom had come with the mother of the other’s ex-partner. Curiously she seemed to be a bit thrown by the first saying he was gay (having asked for a single straight man) and the female audience member initially brought on stage to have a date with him saying that she was also “a little gay”. The segment seems from reviews to be in each show but using real audience members so it is hard to tell how scripted if at all it was. It was less glib than the rest so probably not scripted.
The best part came right at the end where filmed vignettes of the social awkwardnesses which had been the main subject matter of the show were played on the video screens. The stand out one of these was the office game of getting from one side of the room to the other without touching the floor, using desks as walkways, hitching a piggy back lift off a colleague, whizzing across on a spinning office chair and so on. These had the feel of the TV series and showed that the best of Miranda’s comedy is in the visual slapstick rather than words alone. This also, to me, highlighted that the charm of the TV series also came from the slick way it works as an ensemble piece. “Such fun” as a catchphrase works better when said by Patricia Hodge as Miranda’s embarrassing mum. Miranda galloping round an empty stage is a lot less amusing than her doing it alongside the “freakishly small” Sarah Hadland. A posh party is funnier if it has Sally Phillips doing star jumps while pouring custard down her knickers. Maybe watching someone off the telly on a big telly isn’t as good as just watching telly.