This is a hard review to write. Normally when I go to write a review, I watch a show, decide what was good, and what was bad, and tell you about it.

This feels like more like I’ll need to review the state of live comedy than this specific show.

Paul Smith stand up

Paul Smith is an incredibly talented comic, who has soared in popularity over the last couple of years, in large part due to his association with Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool.

This purpose-built comedy club has produced a juggernaut of viral comedy content, allowing comedians to film and release their sets onto social media. It’s success is an incredible achievement.


As resident compere of these shows, Smith has blown up and justifiably become a very popular act, selling out the then Echo Arena in Liverpool – no small feat for a comic with no TV presence. But therein lies the problem. The audience at the Barbican were very familiar with Smith’s persona as a compere, bantering with the crowd, but it seemed like a majority had never attended a live show before.

There was a constant feed of people going up and down the stairs to the toilet or for a smoke, an enormous amount of phone usage, and quite possibly the most heckling I’ve ever heard at a show.

Noisy and disrespectful

I realise I see a lot of comedy, and could be considered a bit of a comedy snob, but this was possibly the worst crowd I’ve ever attended a show with. So noisy and so disrespectful that I don’t think Smith got through his intended full hour show.

As for the content, we started off with Smith doing what he does best, bantering with the crowd, before bringing on his support Callum Oakley. Oakley is very likeable and energetic, and has a nicely self-deprecating style.

As always with shows like this, Oakley suffered a little from support slot disinterest, I estimated about 25% of the crowd left during his set – a shame as he is a funny performer.


After an interval, Smith returned for his show proper, although as I mentioned, I’m not sure how much of his show proper we actually got. What we did get was some interesting stories about his autistic son and home life, interspersed with ‘Yorkshire’ chants (for some reason), several drunken heckles.

Smith is clearly a very talented comic – I’ve seen and heard enough from him to know that – but this show, on this night wasn’t for me. It felt more like a rally for cult members than a stand up show.

It also suffered from the same toilet/smoke break mentality that Oakley had endured, with huge numbers of people leaving and returning during the set. Very distracting for Smith, and for the rest of us.

He’ll have better nights.