In a recent press interview, when asked “To whom would you most like to say sorry and why?”, David Baddiel replied “My parents, for my new show”. Now Baddiel is wary of press quotes as he illustrates superbly with an example of how a quote can be mis-used, in his new show My Family: Not The Sitcom but if this quote is accurate, then depending on your point of view, he probably should be apologising to his parents, although his Mother died last year and his Father is suffering from Pick’s Disease a rare form of dementia.
The show itself whilst basically Baddiel doing stand-up, utilises a big screen, a computer and a clicker to change the photos, show some video etc. This is a form that Dave Gorman has been using very successfully for many years and in this context works very well.
He starts by showing us some jokes that he’s posted on Twitter as he eases us towards the real point of the piece, the remarkable lives and loves of his parents Colin and Sarah. Baddiel tells us that he has a big problem telling lies and what we’re about to hear and see is all true and as the evening progresses, you realise that it’s such an incredible story, that you couldn’t as they say, make it up!
Most of the first half is taken up with stories about his mother illustrated by photos and video. One very funny video clip shows her putting forty candles on Baddiel’s birthday cake that then proceeds to melt furiously in the heat given out by so many candles and the melted wax totally ruins the cake.
The real crux of the story that follows, is his mother’s torrid affair with a man called David White which went on for most of her adult life. It seems that Colin who knew White, may not have been aware of the affair or if he did, he ignored it and welcomed Sarah’s very passionate lover into their home.
In the first half about, Baddiel tells us an awful lot about his mother’s torrid sex life – a lot of it in very graphic detail that possibly crosses the line regarding what you should reveal about your mother to 150 strangers every night for six weeks or so but Baddiel has chosen to tell all and that’s of course up to him. There is however a very funny running joke about Baddiel’s mother’s mis-use of inverted commas but he seemed a lot angrier about this than about her affair which seems a little bizarre.
After a twenty minute interval, which was somewhat superfluous in a ninety minute show, Baddiel concentrated on his irascible father Colin who has Pick’s Disease. When the symptoms of the disease were described to Baddiel such as impulsivity, poor judgement and inappropriate sexual behaviour, Baddiel asked the doctor “Is that a disease or have you just met my father!”. It sounds as if Colin Baddiel was a really difficult man throughout his life – Baddie described him as Viz Comic’s Roger Melly on steroids! This is a difficult subject to be funny about especially when it’s your father but on the whole, Baddiel makes it work in a bitter sweet fashion.
Now whilst a lot of the material is very funny and Baddiel is a superb raconteur, there’s a moral issue to be addressed as to whether using your parent’s sex life and their ill health to make people laugh is right or wrong. There’s also the issue of not only doing this in public but in front of a paying public from which Baddiel will profit considerably.
David Baddiel is an extremely clever man. He’s been doing stand-up for nearly thirty years. He’s written for television and radio. He’s written movies scripts and musicals, four novels and a children’s book or two. It seems he isn’t short of material to entertain people so why has he chosen to use material that quite possibly should have stayed within the Baddiel family where they could laugh and cry in private about a couple of very unusual and somewhat eccentric people?
Baddiel does address the moral issue within the show but I’m not sure he fully explains it. He seems to have loved his mother very much but whilst his father didn’t show much emotion and affection towards his son, Baddiel obviously craved his father’s love and affection which on the whole he didn’t get. What Freud would have made of the Baddiel household, would probably have filled a volume or two. Baddiel admits that he’s using the show to process his grief as it’s not long since his mother died but is this the right time and place to do it?
Baddiel tells us that although born a Jew, he’s really an atheist so religion plays no part in his life but I’m sure that he’s aware of the fifth commandment “Honour Your Father And Mother”. I’m sure he thinks that in My Family: Not The Sitcom, that he’s honoured that commandment but I’m not convinced that he has and I’m not sure all of last night’s audience would agree with him.
Review by Alan Fitter
When family members die, or are lost to dementia, all we tend to say about them is that they were wonderful. But if that is all you can say about them, you may as well say nothing: to truly remember our loved ones, you have to call up their weirdnesses, their madnesses, their flaws. Because the dead, despite what we may think, are not angels.
My Family: Not the Sitcom is a massively disrespectful celebration of the lives of David Baddiel’s late mother, Sarah, and dementia-ridden father, Colin. It’s a show about memory, ageing, infidelity, what we can and can’t say in an over-policed moral culture, and gay cats. Come and be offended on David’s behalf.
David Baddiel: My Family – Not The Sitcom
Menier Chocolate Factory
51 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
Running Time: 2 hours
Age Restrictions: 16+ due to explicit language
Booking From: 10th May 2016
Booking Until: 25th June 2016
Saturday 3.30pm 8.00pm