Norman Packs the mac Features Posted by Ian Symes on 20th May 2003, 23:00 This bloke come up to me and he asked me: “Is there a Gap round here?”. Well, I couldn’t resist it. I said: “There’s one between those two buildings. One between those two cars. And one between you and me, that’s rapidly getting smaller”. Norman Lovett is one of the greatest stand-up comedians around. When I heard he was to do a gig in Birmingham, I just had to be there. And this was no ordinary gig – it was a ‘full show’. Norm performed from 8:00pm to about 10:30, with only a twenty minute interval. And with only a £10 admission fee, or £7 for students like me, you can’t complain at that. the mac (yes, it has to be lower case) is only a small theatre, but there wasn’t an empty seat there. About 150 people went, and not one of them left without a smile on their face. You can’t buy boots in Boots. You can’t buy curries in Curry’s. But in Dixons… Norm’s style is unique, and hard to catergorise. ‘Deadpan’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, although it describes his delivery perfectly. To fully define Norm’s act, you’d have to file it as ‘observational’, ‘anecdotal’, ‘surreal’ and ‘props-based’, more on these later. Each joke or story is told with little excitement, despite Norm’s obvious joy at the audience reaction. There is a lot of self-deprecation is his act, and Norm deliberately gives the impression that he can’t be arsed, but the fact is that his material is near perfect. Of course, it isn’t that funny when you repeat it, but to see Norman deliver it is sublime. I tried to move it [a-daddy-long-legs]. Don’t those legs come off easily? After a while, it didn’t have any legs at all. He looked at me, and said: “Well, that’s me done for, innit?” The first act involved Norman coming on stage with a bag, from which he produced many items, and used each one as a catalyst for a joke or a story. For example, a miniature globe lead to “it’s a small world”, a rubbish bag lead to a display of gymnastics, and a satsuma lead to Norm having a snack. After the interval, Norm went straight in with a stream of anecdotes, many of which simply couldn’t have been true. He ranged from the whimsical, such as walking into a duck pond to see if he was God, to the surreal, like striking up a friendship with a disabled daddy-long-legs, to the plain rude, such as picking up warm dog poo with a nappy sack. She didn’t even smile, but I could tell that on the inside she was taking the piss. So I had to hit her. As I said earlier, the mac is only a small theatre, but even so, the way that Norm enthralled the audience was breath-taking. His chatty style means that the crowd feel included, and there’s an overwhelming sense of involvement. Indeed, many members of the audience were included, with Norm repeatedly talking to individuals, including ‘The Knowledgeable One’, ‘The Stingey One’ and ‘The Smartarse One’, all of whom Norm had made a spectacle of at some point. During the second half, Norm even wandered into the audience, improvising as he chatted to his adoring fans. The bassists are either mental or sullen. They just stand there going: “Are there any children in the audience?” Nobody who has met me will be too surprised to learn that I was ‘The Smartarse One’. Early on in the show, Norm tried to identify the youngest and oldest person in the audience. I felt that I might be able to claim the former, only to be gazumped by a fourteen year old. “See? Smartarse” was Norm’s reposte. It was a fair cop. I became involved again much later, when the fact that I was right by the stage allowed this exchange to take place: NORM: I’ve never had sex. IAN: How did you get two daughters? NORM: Found them. Y’know, Clapham Common… The finale of the show had been built up for some time. At the beginning on the second act, Norman produced a Rotato, a device which enabled the speedy peeling of potatoes. To tease us, every now and then Norm would make a reference to the device, or produce an item of greengrocery. Eventually, Norman picked up the Rotato and a Granny Smith’s, and gave a live demonstration of the machine in action. A long, unbroken length of peel was the result, and when Norman asked if anyone in the audience wanted it, my hand was the first to go up. He suggested eBay, but I’m going to keep it. No man is an island. Except when he’s having a bath. You may argue that my unconditional praise for Norman Lovett is only as a result of him playing Holly, but that’s simply not true. Even if I’d never seen Red Dwarf (*shudder*), I’d still be saying that he’s a simply amazing comedian, and one of the best stand-ups in the world.