It is five years since Micky Flanagan last toured and not a lot has happened to him during those years. As he joked to a packed arena, he mainly pretends to work in his office and watches Bargain Loving Brits. There was a pandemic too, he notes. Or as he puts in with typical Flanaganesque understatement, “we had a bit of aggravation”.
Anyone expecting a David Bowie-style reinvention might be disappointed by the tousle-haired Eastender’s new show If We Ever Needed It. He moans, for example, about the aches and angst of recently turning sixty, but he was having comparable comedic growing pains in his fifties.
Intimate bits of his body are be becoming leathery but his wit is as silky smooth as ever, even when the targets are low-hanging fruit. Big laughs are prompted by a veritable bunch of gripes, from fellow sunbathers on the beach who are more irritating than sand in your sausage rolls to society’s obsession with new teeth and cartoon eyebrows.
As in previous shows Flanagan has plenty to say about the uneasy truce he has with his wife over everything from division of household chores to communicating with each other in their unashamedly big house. A beautifully-observed running gag about the varying volumes of “caller” and “callee” is the closest thing here to his legendary Out Out routine.
Politics is largely skimmed over, although he does deliver arguably the world’s worst Boris Johnson impression. Worst in a good way, that is, so grotesquely exaggerated it is more like a living Hogarth engraving than an audition for Dead Ringers.
Cancel culture and gender politics are mentioned, but unlike certain stand-ups of his age he is not noisily anti-woke and stops well short of spouting the overused mantra of “you can’t saying anything any more”. Instead he uses the idea of being triggered to recall a memorable changing room encounter at his Bethnal Green comprehensive school.
As ever, Flanagan is happy to be the fall guy throughout, very much playing the blokey male stereotype who prefers shirking to working. At one point he reveals that he recently went to a musical to placate his wife – “torture!” – and wonders if there could be a market for a musical about The Krays.
He might be a little traditional at times, but Flanagan is a fantastic stand-up with an ear for a relatable yarn. Despite being under the weather he landed his punchlines with laser-guided precision, grinning and swaggering around the stage. When it comes to filling vast arenas with smiles he is out there on his own. Or maybe that should be out out there on his own.
O2, May 18, 19, 26, 27, June 1, 2. ticketmaster.co.uk