Norman Lovett - Entertaining Moaner
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2017.
For many comedy fans Norman Lovett is one of those comedians who has been around for so long they have become part of the establishment, but are so un-mainstream they are seldom talked about. Certainly, to see his act at least once must be on everyone's bucket-list, although perhaps it is a bucket-list governed rather more by his own lifespan than ours.
At 70 years of age, Norman saunters on stage and proceeds to ramble on in his accustomed comedic way about various aspects of daily life, interspersed with some amusing props. Here is dead-pan sardonic delivery to delight both Red Dwarf and non-Holly fans alike and the audience is on board with all his throwaway lines and dour observations. We laugh. A bit. The trouble is, he more-or-less takes over an hour to tell everyone ironically that he doesn't have any material and should really stop babbling on about nothing (we get it, it's all part of the act), but in fact the truth is that he doesn't really have any proper material, certainly not scripted, just some stage props that he talks about and some stories he dwells on in a hopefully amusing way. Sometimes it hits the mark, other times he is reduced to being a bloke standing on stage talking.
Due in part to his underdog persona originating from the cult TV series and also from his advancing years, this audience really wants to like Lovett and gives him every possible laugh available. But in truth there aren't that many, and certainly with no riotous laughter or applause during the set the audience could said to be gently amused but not really anything more than that. He is exploiting, not unreasonably, the comedic and appealing elements of the straight-faced character he played in Red Dwarf (this show is called “Entertaining Moaner”), but does not do so with even the slightest attempt to act the part or accentuate those things that once made him famous. As a result he perhaps inadvertently portrays himself as a rather forlorn, saddened, human version of a forlorn, saddened TV character which simply does not live up to any expectations in the audience. This show is far from hilarious, and coupled with his arriving on stage ten minutes late and slightly annoying habit of name-dropping of other, bigger stars with whom he has worked, this does rather come across as a comedian who never quite filled his full potential and is now just cashing in on what claims to fame he may have had on a newfound tidal wave of public enthusiasm for comedy not of his making. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with that, but the acid-test questions of “Was it worth the ticket price?”(Just about) and “Would you recommend it to someone else?” (Not really) leave a disappointing twinge to the smile he creates.