[First published on Quays News 17/03/16]
UP-AND-COMING comedian Stephen Bailey performed his stand up show ‘Should’ve been a popstar’ to a sold out crowd in the Lowry’s studio. I was in the audience to see the young comic…
Taking a break from supporting popular Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan, Stephen Bailey performed his Edinburgh Fringe show to his native Manchester crowd. He’s camp and unapologetically naughty, and doesn’t withhold anything in a show that would traumatise those clinging on to any conservative views.
Bailey’s cheeky demeanour, complete with a bow tie, is immediately obvious. He starts by asking the guys and then the girls to give him a shout, as well as questioning whether there were any gays in, each time following the jeers with a neat little joke. Bailey continues to throw questions at the audience throughout the show to help him shift between topics. The audience involvement helped to warm up the room at the start, but did become tiresome as the show progressed.
Interaction with individuals in the audience is also a regular feature of the show and, in the relatively small space, worked well to produce some great unique moments to the night. First he spoke to a guy he’d met at a previous gig, but Bailey had no interest in idle chit-chat, jumping straight to outright flirting. Revisiting him throughout the show, the flirting continued, ending in an odd finish in which the audience member was bearing his bare torso on stage. I think it is safe to say this split the audience somewhat – I certainly wasn’t the one wolf whistling.
Before that however, there was more fun to be had with the front row. Bailey went on to mistake a mother and son for a couple, the results were hilariously awkward and highlighted the beauty of spontaneous comedy.
Despite large chunks of the show consisting of improvisation, there is also some strong prepared material. Bailey states that the show revolves around confidence, taking us through his time at school and how, despite his curly ginger hair and speech impediments, he has blossomed into a confident performer, which is undoubted.
He draws musings and anecdotes from family, with the story of him coming out as well as constantly poking fun at his mum. The jokes are funny, but made more so with the revelation that his mum was in the audience that particular night. Bailey also had more audience support with some of his friends enjoying the show. Unsurprisingly he chose to pick on them, one girl becoming the butt of a joke about entering a date’s house rather inappropriately.
Dating and relationships are other subjects tackled in the show. Bailey, trying his luck with internet dating, reveals funny messages he’d received through various dating apps. His ex is also brought up, as he discusses angry texts he’d sent. Nothing is ground breaking, but his charm brings material to life, creating rolling laughter.
Bailey’s persona is unmistakably camp, but unique enough as not to encourage comparisons with fellow comedians that also base their performance on their homosexuality. He creates a buzz whilst on stage, with the energy allowing his jokes to evoke cascades of laughter. However, the rhythm of performance is not distinct enough, with Bailey sometimes talking over the laughter and never really building up to a final punchline for his anecdotes or jokes.
Bailey’s show certainly splits opinion. Smutty, rude, perhaps inappropriate, but that is irrelevant because his jokes, with his delivery, result in hilarity for the duration of his hour set. He pushes the boundaries, the humour created from the taboo nature of his material. If you want to be shocked into laughing, then Stephen Bailey will have you in stitches with nothing but a nonchalant comment on something far too crude to publish here.