How does the 'reliably sophisticated font of witticisms' as featured on 8 Out of 10 Cats transfer to the stage?
Television comedy panel shows have a lot to answer for. Tonight, it's the fact that Jon Richardson has sold out the second of two nights in the White Room at the Belfast Festival at Queen's, while far superior acts such as Terry Alderton and Adam Riches have seen their shows downgraded to much smaller venues.
Slap someone on telly and you're guaranteed bums on seats, almost irrespective of quality. On 8 out of 10 Cats, as straight man of sorts to Sean Lock, Richardson is an engaging presence, a reliably sophisticated font of witticisms. But there's nothing about the 30-year-old Lancastrian's material tonight that suggests he has anything fresh or even particularly funny to say in a stand-up setting.
'He's not like he is on Cats when he says a thing, and Sean says something funnier,' Richardson deadpans, imagining what the audience might be whispering to one another. He's being self-deprecating, of course, but judging by the weak laughter levels throughout this two-hour show, he may not be not far off. Certainly, two women seated next to me sit stony-faced for the first half, and leave at the interval.
After Richardson's recent Channel 4 documentary about obsessive compulsive disorder, A Little Bit OCD, it seems many may have been hoping for some amusing insights into the condition. But Richardson's dealings with his anal retentiveness never rise above schtick.
The correct way to pronounce 'an onion'? How to properly eat a baguette? The etiquette of storing spoons in a cutlery drawer? Really? This is the best the man described by Chortle as 'so good he actually bends time' can come up with? And why the obsession with food? After anecdote upon anecdote about Masterchef, Boojum and bananas, I may never eat again...
To be fair, there is also some good stuff about footballers, porn and fairy tales, but the promise of more cutting material goes nowhere. 'If you're in love, it's not going to last,' Richardson announces, before getting back to rambling about apple cores looking like anuses. To make matters worse, it's all riddled through with a deadening overuse of the F-word, which is feels unnecessary for someone of Richardson's obvious intellect.
There are a few decently observed gags, I suppose, though even Richardson's puzzlement over the fact that you can get married and have children at 16, but you have to wait until you're 25 to hire a van, or a remark about disgruntled babies giving you 'the same look a dog gives you' when going to the toilet, would be the sort of lines, say, Jason Manford would crumple up and chuck in the bin.
'I wasted my 20s,' Richardson announces at one point. 'I didn't do drugs or shag people.' Perhaps if he had been a hedonistic screw-up, he wouldn't come a cross as so repressed. 'Get on with your reflections on your 20s, you tedious little...' he mock-heckles once more.
Richardson seems keen for us to object to his running commentary of what we might be thinking, but by this stage the foul blend of neediness, self-regard and plain unfunniness has caused this writer for one to pledge his allegiance to the 2 out of 10.