Support Act by Robin Grainger
Forty-four, back on the road and trailing a legion of fans around the country, Gary Meikle performs for the ladies (and some gents) of Edinburgh as part of his current tour – Surreal. Anecdotal, Meikle once again draws on the familiar settings of his previous performances, though skirts away from the predictable punchlines other male comics possess. With an undeniable Glaswegian charm and sincerity, with a conveyance of comradery for the audience, life may have its surreal moments, but this performance is a genuine article.
Most of his time is circulated with his family: adult daughter Ainsley and granddaughter Gracey who just turned four. Even without being pushed into Lockdown with the pair, expectantly much of his life revolves around the family, making up much of Meikle’s routine, where the leaps and jumps in transition usually align with something Gracey or his daughter have sparked. Oddly, despite the personal nature of much of Meikle’s sets, disappointingly most of the comedic net lands in trodden grounds as we tackle ageing, sex and a whole host of sexuality jokes.
A significant drawback is the meta-presence of ‘dark humour’, which Meikle seems to confuse with excrement jokes and toilet gags – and yes, the anecdotes of balancing aeroplane toilets with a toddler do lead to hilarious routines, but nothing Meikle labels as ‘dark’ stretches beyond the light. It wouldn’t be a prominent issue had it not been referred to, almost in a stretch to convince the audience the humour is cutting edge or grim: it isn’t. It’s funny, don’t get us wrong, but throwing around terminology doesn’t aid in the sharpness of the humour, it only invites a let-down.
For any familiar with Meikle’s presence, he’s remarkably comforting and engaging with the audience. Though there’s no lampooning of the crowd (especially the front row), there is though an expected back and forth with the audience and references to his dedication to fans on and off stage. And it aids his conversational manner; topics tackling gender clichés and sexuality never come over as blockheaded or uncouth – even with the slight laddish vibe. Rather, there’s a merit of wit to the gags Meikle creates, and though the stems of commonplace topics have their drawbacks.
The vibe is that Meikle understands the audiences he attracts and caters precisely to them. Admirable, Surreal maintains steady appeal for Meikle’s fans but does little to convince potential new audiences who may be in attendance. The grasp of humour is firm, evident, but sourcing these anecdotes from a familiar pool leaves the setups with much to be desired, even if the punchlines do leave a mark.
In supporting Meikle, the initial twenty-minute set piece is in the hands of Robin Grainger to calm the hormonal frenzy who are Meikle’s fanbase. Raucous, loud and unleashed for quite possibly the first time in months, the King’s Theatre is ravenous for comedy, and Grainger is happy to serve.
Largely self-deprecating, the amount of jokes Grainger throws into the crowd within a short set is impressive, landing their mark with ease and opening the crowd back into the realm of stand-up. Punching downwards, taking shots at cyclists, the Tories, and naturally himself, Grainger has a fine grasp of aggressive delivery. And for whatever Grainger may lack in girth, by his admission, he makes up for in thunderous enthusiasm, which at times spills over into throwing off his delivery.
Though different in set-up, the humour of the two pairs well, making the transition from the preamble to Meikle’s performance seamless. A welcome addition, there’s little to suggest Grainger would be unable to hold the Kings stage by himself, a welcome return sometime in the future hopeful.
Gary Meikle: Surreal continues touring across Scotland and the rest of the UK through to December. For tickets, book here.