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My Family: Not the Sitcom review at the Menier Chocolate Factory – ‘candid stand-up’

David Baddiel in My Family: Not the Sitcom. Photo: Marc Brenner

David Baddiel is telling a joke about his dead mum. He’s telling a joke about his dead mum’s sex life to be more precise. That sounds crass but it’s the basis of his candid new show. My Family: Not the Sitcom feels like a mixture of stand-up and an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Which is fitting as the Baddiel family’s appearance on that programme is referenced here.

Though he’s performing at the Menier Chocolate Factory this is a straightforward stand-up show and structured as such. It’s an introspective couple of hours in which Baddiel discusses his late mother and, to a lesser extent, his father, who is now suffering from Pick’s Disease, a form of dementia that makes its sufferers volatile and aggressive. Baddiel is of the opinion that to celebrate a person’s life, one shouldn’t shy away from their quirks, idiosyncrasies and failings. He describes his mother’s exuberance, her fondness for lime-light stealing and her unabashed sexual energy. He also talks in detail about her 20 year affair with a pipe-smoking golf pro and the impact it had on family life.

It’s inevitably uncomfortable in places. It’s also very funny, and works both as an act of celebration and an act of mourning. It takes a while to find its feet though. The first 15 minutes of material are pretty timid and mainly revolve around Baddiel’s presence on Twitter, as if he’s slowly working himself up to the big stuff. It feels like there’s a braver, rawer show here about the extent to which a child can ever know their parents, and about coming to terms with the idea of his mother as a complex, sexual, and complete woman. When he starts to scratch away at that, the show becomes more interesting and, at times, genuinely moving.

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Candid stand-up from David Baddiel about coming to terms with the loss – and life – of a parent