David Baddiel – My Family: Not the Sitcom

Durham Gala Theatre, March 16 2018

David Baddiel, by his own admission, has something of a filtering problem. Or rather, he doesn’t, because he doesn’t do very much of it. It’s something that has been a feature of his stand-up, but this show takes that need to be true to new heights because during its course he reveals some of the most personal details about himself and his family that you could possibly imagine.

The principal reasons for this are the recent death of his mother, and his father’s ongoing journey into the twilight world of dementia. There is a sense of absence in both cases: in his mother’s a physical one, but in his father’s something slightly more difficult to wrestle with. And wrestle with this he does. As part of the show he ventures into asking about the ethics of doing what he is doing tonight. In his mother’s case he feels more comfortable than he does with a man who is, at least in some identifiable sense, still with us, though at the same time he isn’t quite any more.

So the show is something of a love letter to them both, which is appropriate because love letters are a significant part of the story. He talks about his parents not as ideals, but as proper flesh and blood people, with wishes, foibles and desires. And he does it with a lot of warmth, some bewilderment and occasionally just out-and-out confusion (like his mother’s poems, which are a treat).

But all of this funny. Very, very funny, not to mention deeply touching. There is one moment towards the end that isn’t really funny at all; it’s rather poignant, and actually beautiful. A heartfelt little moment of reaching back that anyone who has lost a parent will understand. It’s a moment he admits that, even performing it so often, he feels difficult and wrenching. But it’s honest, and truly wonderful.

But if this paints things as miserable, it’s not meant to. There are lots of great laughs, discussions about the efficacy of inverted commas, golf memorabilia, and cat porn. Not discussions about cat porn, mind you. But actual cat porn. Oh, and pipes. Lots of pipes.

It is actually joyous and hugely life-affirming, that even in the darkest of times there are reasons to laugh, and savour the absurdity of the human condition. Especially in the darkest times.