Grieving Sean can still lift our spirits
Sean Hughes, Life Becomes Noises (On tour from Oct 2nd)
What happens when a comedian who became the youngest winner of the Perrier Award – at the age of 24 – hits an extended fallow period?
Sean Hughes was once all the rage. After his 1990 win, he had his own Channel 4 sitcom and seemed destined for global stardom – yet his stand-up career stalled and he settled down to the slightly less stellar heights of team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
He has kept busy, publishing novels, poetry and short-story collections, and with acting parts, including as a Corrie love rat.
Sean Hughes, who returns to the stand-up comedy circuit this October with his new show, Life Becomes Noises
But he returned to stand-up in 2007 after a long break and still had plenty to say, and after a hiatus following his father’s death, last month in Edinburgh he presented two new shows. The first, Sean Hughes Stands Up, was a refreshing blast of skewed comedic wisdom taking in religion, a dodgy knee and his discovery that, despite giving up alcohol, he’s still a bit of an idiot.
The second, Life Becomes Noises, took the subject of his father’s death from cancer to offer a meditation on how we confront the loss of a loved one. It’s a difficult sell to a comedy crowd, but Hughes’s light touch ensures it’s a winning one.
Life Becomes Noises returns to the style of his Perrier-winner A One Night Stand With Sean Hughes. In a largely scripted hour played in front of a theatrical set with props, he opens up on his bereavement.
‘My sexual demographic these days is women who go to snooker tournaments’
At the start he says his biggest regret is that he wasn’t dressed as a jockey at his father’s deathbed, and we sense that there will be a mix of poignancy, searing honesty, black comedy and occasional larkiness to puncture the emotion.
There are plenty of one-liners – ‘my sexual demographic these days is women who go to snooker tournaments’ – but there’s also a good deal of self-realisation, which makes for a surprisingly uplifting finale.
He says he didn’t cry as his dad was dying yet did at MasterChef (‘and it wasn’t even the final’), and this is a show that steers clear of lachrymosity. He quips that his mum’s a moron – ‘but she’s my moron’ – and offers up the insight: ‘As I lower my expectations on life, I’m beginning to love my gene pool.’
It’s a surprisingly moving moment, which leads to a tender reimagining of his last moments with his father, in a scene that the Nineties Hughes would never have considered.
He may have been sweet then, but he’s a lot sweeter now.