Comedy preview: Stephen Merchant @ Edinburgh Playhouse

Published by METRO

Stephen Merchant: stand-up comedian. It doesn’t quite read right, does it? Indeed, the giant may have raised his profile in recent years, but he’s just a guy who appears on the telly and the radio with writing partner Ricky Gervais, isn’t he? Of course he’s funny, but does he seem like someone who stands alone on stage and tells jokes to a crowd of people for an hour?

Well, somehow we’ve got to get used to this idea, because Merchant’s 6ft 8inch frame will be darkening the doorways of the Edinburgh Playhouse for three such performances, starting tonight.

The multi-Bafta, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning writer, director, actor and presenter has enjoyed many successes in the past decade, yet he is apparently no better at wooing the female of the species than any other lanky, spectacled British man. No, it seems not even being the voice of the Barclays adverts prevent Merchant suffering some epic romantic failures, which take centre stage on his first stand-up tour.

But with the latest series of An Idiot Abroad (which he co-produced) currently gracing our screens and new sitcom Life’s Too Short (which he co-created) on the horizon, you have to ask: what has comedy’s most basic format really got to offer someone with his schedule?

Well, conquering the world of stand-up is part of Merchant’s unfinished business. Before joining Gervais on Xfm in 1997, the Bristolian’s efforts received a mixed reception on the circuit in his neck of the woods, and he clearly feels he has something to prove.

‘I want people to think “he’s good at that” rather than “he’s cashing in”,’ Merchant told Metro last year as he was preparing material for the tour. Thankfully, it’s the former that the critics are reckoning as he nears the border and the halfway point of his time on the road.

Stephen Merchant: stand-up comedian. Go on then, get me a ticket.