COMEDY FESTIVAL REVIEW: Al Murray – The Only Way Is Epic, Curve Leicester
Al Murray's brash pub landlord character has been crafted, honed and perfected since he launched it via stand-up in 1994 and made it a household favourite with TV series Time Gentlemen Please.
Nearly 20 years later, one would expect the material to be somewhat old hat, but Murray's quick-responses and ability to interact with his audience have the audience on side from the get-go.
From his opening line, spilling beer across the Curve stage: "We've all done a Richard the Third in a car park at some point", to removing a pint from the hands of front-row Sarah (who works in Health and Safety) and telling her "this is in plastic because of people like you", the one-liners didn't let up.
But the essence of the character is the "best-mateness" of the pub landlord, the man with whom you set the world to rights, from politics to women to the youth of today, the man who will happily discuss all the answers to the world's problems. But it's much more complicated than that.
This tour includes some brilliant set pieces on the Euro, how Great Britain has lost its way, young people and discipline, vajazzles, Scottish independence and pop-up tents.
One, in which he systematically goes backwards through British Prime Ministers, detailing why each led the "worst government ever" until he arrives at his hero Churchill "who won us the Second World War", is positively genius and shows the intelligence under the humour.
So raise a glass to the pub landlord. A British institution.
In an era of job insecurity, some good news: it's possible to make a very respectable living out of being middle aged.
Don't revise your retirement plans just yet, though. It takes more than unruly eyebrows and a growing respect for Lionel Richie to compete with the likes of Jenny Eclair.
The self-styled grumpy old woman knows her subject from thinning top to sagging bottom, its ailments and embarrassments, its peculiar anxieties and perverse joys.
To judge from the appreciative reaction at Curve, Leicester's mature students came away enlightened and, something we can all benefit from at our time of life, uplifted.
As you would expect, women of a certain age were in the comfortable majority here and Eclair, too old to get excited about visitors who drop by unexpectedly, gave most of her attention to them. She envisaged the husbands pleading with their better halves during the interval: "Let me sit in the car and listen to Radio 5 Live."
But no. The token blokes adored her as well and we were rewarded with Eclair's uncannily perceptive rules for married men. (My favourite: "Try to memorise the names of her three best friends, so you don't have to refer to them as Fatty, Shorty and the Fit One.")
With its four-letter ruminations on incontinence, S&M in the workplace and the curious disappearance of the nation's pubic hair, it was as racy as you could wish for. But look past the abrasive delivery and there's something (I'll risk a slap here) sweetly non-threatening about Eclair's celebration of greying girl power, which wisely sidesteps midlife's darker neuroses. The Grim Reaper didn't drop by unexpectedly and he wasn't missed.
This was not a night for hand-wringing, it was a night to be happy in your own ageing skin, never more so than when the 52-year-old rolled up her trouser legs to reveal a pair of spectacularly puckered knees, in the hope it might encourage some audience members to take off their cardigans in public for the first time in six years. What a woman!