Despite having his own television show on Channel 4 a decade ago, Richard Blackwood is more well-known for receiving a prostate examination live on TV and for self-administering a coffee enema on Celebrity Detox Camp. But he has been performing comedy for 20 years and, after a ten year gap, he returns to the Indigo2 for a solo stand-up show.
After an hour-long delay, Kat B emerges as the support act, a comedian whose set is full of silliness and extended dances. During one dance there is a constant stream of screaming from the audience, erupting into unrestrained elation when he does the splits. Kat is enjoyably energetic, but his set lacks jokes, consisting mostly of a story about a vibrator.
Kat B introduces Blackwood and the first ten minutes of his set consist of him talking about how attractive he is, blurring the line between false arrogance for comic effect and just arrogance.
On less firm ground Blackwood’s set includes some rather dubious and lengthy impersonations of an Indian accent and a few jokes about Muslims (“I’ve nothing against Muslims”, he clarifies afterwards). It is like being catapulted back to the 70s as Blackwood, despite the best efforts of the alternative comedy movement, bizarrely manages to resurrect the spirit of Bernard Manning with this casual mockery of other races. Even if the audience deems that mocking an Indian accent is acceptable, race-based humour still creates a cultural dissonance that alienates many potential audience members who cannot recognise the stereotypes he draws attention to.Much of Blackwood’s humour is race-based: there is a series of jokes beginning “White people do this…. but black people do this.” It is a well-worn format, and difficult to get right but some of the stereotypes he points out hit the mark for the audience and provoke peals of laughter.
The longest segment of Blackwood’s set consists of refuting the abuse allegations that chased Michael Jackson until his death, describing Jackson’s drug regimen before he died and going systematically through the way that “the king of pop” looks on the covers of his various albums.
After the end of one of his anecdotes someone in the audience begins to clap, and Blackwood points this out. As Stewart Lee said, the only thing worse for a comedian than no one clapping is the sound of one person clapping because it means you have very specialised appeal and therefore no commercial future. This is true, on a less extreme scale, for Richard Blackwood: hiscomedy will not appeal to wide audiences, but those who can identify with his cultural stereotyping will enjoy the observational element. His onstage energy, though, is impressive and the honesty with which he discusses the lower points of his career is admirable.
Review originally appeared here.