Review: Stephen Merchant *****

At Sheffield City Hall

He wrings comedy out of the fact that he is the less famous half of the highly successful comedy writing partnership for British television but that should not be taken as a sign that he is unaware of his talents.

Stephen Merchant – or Mitchell as he was labelled in a supposedly genuine early interview in a national newspaper according to Merchant – is clearly very aware of just how good he is.

Truth is, when he is this good, why not?

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The arrogance of this knowledge is constantly underpinned by a self-awareness that prevents it tipping into hubris and makes for a very funny show.

Hello Ladies is the first stand-up tour from Merchant, one half of the comedy writing team responsible for The Office.

Because, unlike his partner Ricky Gervais, he largely stayed behind the camera in the worldwide success, his face is not as well known as Gervais’s, the starting point for much of the humour here. He is unsuccessful with women – his lanky 6ft 8in height a problem – and he never gets the recognition he deserves.

That is the conceit, at least, but it is a rich seam and Merchant mines it relentlessly.

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More confessional a show than we have seen from Gervais, Merchant on stage will convince you that the success the two have had is clearly 50 per cent his.

York Grand Opera House, October 10, St George’s Hall Bradford, November 24.

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