Head into Can’t Think Straight with a full drink, and you will be in genuine danger of laughing so much that you spill it. Stephen Bailey is an exceptional performer, and this hour of stand-up about everything from dating to working-class culture to his own family is well-written and achingly funny.
Bailey warmed up the audience with a charismatic introduction and continued to interact with us throughout the show, with shout-outs, questions, and comments – sometimes friendly, sometimes ruthlessly harsh but always hilariously funny. This constant engagement gave the performance an intimate feel, and offered Bailey a chance to ad-lib a little with excellent results.
I was glad that I hadn't brought my grandma, as a lot of the humour was blush-inducingly filthy – though that said, the vast majority of the audience fell outside the demographic I would have expected for this type of show, and seemed to be loving it. The jokes are crude, but not offensive, and Bailey is a very likeable performer. His material draws a lot on sweet and seemingly genuine stories about his family members, which endeared him a lot to the crowd.
The show took a surprisingly serious turn when Bailey addressed the issue of homophobia around the world, drawing the audience up short and making us stop and think. There was a moment of serious, laughter-less reflection, then Bailey cracked a joke and the room erupted again. It felt as if he were a puppet master in perfect control of his audience, bringing the mood up and down, forcing us to laugh whenever he wanted to and then to be serious when he didn't. Bailey has wonderful comic timing, and he changes the rhythm throughout the show – sometimes delivering short, snappy jokes, and sometimes building the audience up over a period of tension before realising with a brilliantly funny punchline.
There was an incredible energy throughout the hour, and Bailey seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. He wasn’t alone in that: the room ceaselessly resounded with laughter. It's clear that Stephen Bailey has a bright future as a shining stand-up talent, and I look forward to seeing what this comic genius comes up with next.