Review: Sean Kelly Live

[First published on Quays News 30/10/15]

STORAGE HUNTERS auctioneer and American comedian, Sean Kelly, hit The Lowry in Salford on the last show of his first ever UK tour. Here’s what I thought of it…kell

Sean Kelly, known for controlling loud obnoxious characters in his hit reality television show Storage Hunters, is rarely able to display his comedic talents on screen, but on stage the spotlight is on him. His material derives from his surprisingly varied life, having been born in America but schooled in Germany, he has then cycled through a whole range of jobs.

Despite the apparent popularity of Storage Hunters, a smattering of empty seats greeted Kelly in the Lowry’s new-fangled theatre. He kicked off the show by talking about his experiences in the UK. Bradford and Blackpool were targeted, so too was the UK’s famously poor customer service, subjects exhausted by comedians these days and therefore it felt unoriginal. In this early part of the show, with the cold audience just filling up half the room, laughter was sparse. However, once he moved into a routine about his German upbringing, his jokes landed successfully and the show picked up.

His attempts at accents and self-deprecation received the most laughs from the audience. The first half centred more around gags as he moved swiftly from subject to subject. However, he ventured into dangerous territory on a couple of occasions with obscene references that needed to be handled more carefully and, as a result, they didn’t sit well with the majority of the audience.

The largest laughs of the night were during Kelly’s interaction with the Salford audience. He picked out his ‘bald brothers’, and chatted to a Papa Bear lookalike (a Storage Hunters character). Frustratingly a member of the audience heckled on a few too many occasions, and although Kelly encouraged it, and his belittling comebacks were effective, it seemed to disrupt the momentum of the show, causing him to lose his way.

Storage Hunters has become a guilty pleasure for regular viewers of daytime television and, expectedly, its fans had been drawn to tonight’s show. Kelly, fully realising the makeup of his audience, dropped in several references to his TV career during the show. He took full advantage of the shared knowledge his audience possessed through a trivia quiz. Never has the knowledge of mind-numbing daytime television been more useful. Asking for politely raised hands, those who correctly answered the questions, which in terms of difficulty were on a par with those asked on University Challenge, were called on stage to claim prizes ranging from an unwanted hunk calendar to an exclusive signed photo. Kelly’s improvisation, along with the willingness of the Lowry audience, created some great laughs.

The show’s finale was, what else, an auction. Admirably raising money for Help for Heroes, members of the audience and Kelly himself had brought along items to sell in his trademark style. A ukulele, some jewellery and a pocket watch were all up for grabs, and with hands flying up everywhere, all items were sold for over £50. The big money was raised with Kelly’s items. Signed shirts went for £100 each and so too did a pair of silly doodles of the Storage Hunters characters.  As the show ended to thunderous applause, Kelly had built up a rapport with his audience. This was strengthened after the show, as fans were able to meet him, get autographs and pose for pictures with him.

Kelly’s stand up offers a thoroughly enjoyable evening. He rolled jokes out at a decent pace, not all of them worked, but those that did forged resounding laughter. The second half of the show was by far the most enjoyable. It felt more natural as he showcased himself as a great improviser and conductor of an audience. Overall, Kelly provided a solid
night of comedy.