Still only 36, having sold out stadiums for a decade, Kevin Bridges has justified confidence in the spartan elegance of his approach. Not many comics could hold the spotlight for 80 minutes on the night of an England match, armed with nothing but the mic. As the show begins, people can be seen everywhere watching the game on their phones, at a covert low angle.
Support act Karl Spain is well-chosen to lay the groundwork for Bridges’ elevated club comedy. Which is not to say that the pure and noble art of club comedy needs elevating, just that Bridges is also a practitioner, and does it exceptionally well. His material is beautifully balanced. He lambasts the government’s response to Covid, and will occasionally swipe at disruptive audience members, but never slips into haughtiness and is often the butt of his own jokes. He’ll swear, obviously, and commit to a brilliant lengthy routine about haemorrhoids, but he doesn’t touch once on sex or probe any taboos. As an audience, you feel gently held.
Four years have passed since his last show, and he’s gotten married, had a baby, and migrated to a middle-class neighbourhood. He stops short of admitting that he might now be middle-class himself, but will concede that he’s been “granted citizenship” by his son, who is attending baby yoga class, surrounded by kids with posh names who care about who’s the best swimmer. Very different from Bridges’ day, when playground status could only be secured by being “good at football, good at fighting, or f—ing mental.”
Under the superficially rough exterior, he fears confrontation as much as anyone, and hints during the show that he’d like to be bolder. It makes you wonder if there’s more brimstone somewhere in there.
But the secret is that he is a sensitive, meticulous performer. His command of the stage is often remarked on, but how is it achieved? He moves around it like a tango dancer, without ever drawing attention to that pitch-perfect physicality. It’s in his voice as well; there’s an almost eerie sensation when he deploys RP to spoof the upper classes. Machine-tooled, unerring, aiming for the broadest possible appeal while retaining the required edge, there aren’t many safer bets on the UK stand-up scene.
Until Dec 2. Tickets: 020 8563 3800; eventimapollo.com