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REVIEW: David Baddiel, My Family: Not The Sitcom

David Baddiel.
David Baddiel.

“It’s nice to be in Lancaster...the acceptable face of Preston” is David Baddiel’s opening line to his Grand Theatre audience.

With a statement like that, Baddiel was onto a winner right from the start, and from there on in it was plain sailing for the comedian.

David Baddiel's new show tackles his family's recent history.

David Baddiel's new show tackles his family's recent history.

Baddiel’s show is in turn hilarious, thought-provoking, risque and also deeply sad.

Talking about your late mother’s longstanding affair and your father’s dementia may not be top of everyone’s lists as subjects guaranteed to raise a few laughs, but Baddiel somehow manages to pull it off.

Topics that would normally be seen as taboo come to the fore as Baddiel weaves hilarious one-liners into sometimes poignant tales of his family life.

It’s interspersed with chat about Twitter ‘likes’, provoking internet ‘trolls’ and the people he terms ‘social justice warriors’.

Themes of religion and identity are prevalent throught the show, but it’s the more personal stories about his parents which bring the show to life in a heart-wrenching yet hilarious way.

Baddiel’s mum passed away three years ago – in fact her birthday fell on the day of this show – and his father is suffering from Pick’s disease, a severe form of dementia.

His mother, born in Nazi Germany in 1939, would go to all his shows and often heckle his performances.

Tales of his mum lead onto the revelation that she had been having an affair for much of her married life, a fact she didn’t particularly try to hide from her family although he believes his father remained unaware.

Mr Baddiel Snr, meanwhile, was diagnosed with Pick’s disease, a condition which can heighten dysfunctional, argumentative, or hostile social conduct.

However, knowing his dad’s personality, the diagnosis led Baddiel to ask the doctor “does he have a disease or have you just met him?”

His extreme behaviour later found him banned from his day care centre for fighting with another pensioner.

Among the stories Baddiel told of his mother were many from discoveries made after her death, including her collection of Golliwogs which were found hidden around the house “like a racist version of the Crystal Maze”.

Baddiel also came across a book of erotic poetry which Mrs Baddiel had penned to her lover.

In this, he says he was more perturbed by her misuse of inverted commas and overuse of exclamation marks than by the words themselves.

The final piece de resistance was also one of his late mum’s possessions – a mug printed with her lover’s face...on both sides.

Baddiel says he likens his show to an “anti-funeral funeral speech” for his mum, and ends by asking the audience to raise a glass – or mug – to the late Mrs Baddiel.

He touchingly admits he struggled to get through the performance on a couple of occasions, particularly when he realised the significance of the date.

But as he says when he chats about the implications of talking about dementia, “you have to laugh or else you’d cry”.