Stephen Merchant at 2012 Just for Laughs Festival | Comedy Review
At 37-years-old, why would Stephen Merchant, the co-creator of Extras, The Office and co-host of The Ricky Gervais Show suddenly decide to do stand-up? Here's why: "Any money I make I don't have to share with you know who." Queue up a ton of laughter from the crowd at the Park West who came out last night to see Merchant as part of the TBS Just for Laughs festival. Jokes like that one were highlights in an evening of self-deprecating humor in which Merchant constantly pointed the arrow at his tall, nerdy, hapless with women (the show is actually called Stephen Merchant: Hello Ladies) and ostensibly second-banana self. And yes, it included a PowerPoint presentation.
Merchant is no craftsman of stand-up comedy (sometimes his punchlines were delivered with amateurish gusto), but in sharing his life story he has many compelling yarns and observations on his hands. At 6'7" for example, he towers over most of the world and cleverly noted that, "There's a weird arrogance because you've been most people's heights." He describes being so tall that people at crowded events use him as a marker. A group of ladies on New Year's Eve in Trafalgar Square have agreed to, "meet back at him." Merchant was also readily available to defend his nerdiness, a facet he clearly cherishes even if it's getting in the way of meeting a mate. For example, he flaunted his still-functioning Casio calucator watch, describing it as the "iPod of the '80s." In other places, he shared a few unpleasant run-ins with the media that he was only too happy to describe in detail. On the evening of his first Golden Globe victory, for example, the picture in the paper the next day cut off his head. In another instance, his last name is misspelled (badly).
Not all material engaged me. His take on sitting in the exit row on an aircraft felt a bit amateur, as did a routine on eating popcorn at the movies. However, in finally getting to his search for a mate, the show picks up steam. Merchant talks about being refused entrance to a trendy nightclub by a surly doorman who says, "We're looking for people who will provide glamour, not tech support." Elsewhere, Merchant goes into detail about his lovemaking process, a visual gag that works due to his unusual height. Also, Merchant exhibited solid callbacks throughout.
For an encore, Merchant restaged an "issues" play he'd written in junior high that in part tackles teen pregnancy. During this scene, Merchant demonstrated the birthing process using one of his three Emmys as a prop. C'mon ladies, get him while he's still available.