TV: Live At The Apollo, BBC2

When a show is on its thirteenth series it would be understandable if it was starting to look a bit tired and ragged around the edges. But Live at the Apollo has survived a move – some might say relegation – from BBC1 to BBC2 and established a format that works well and could last for some time yet. In fact judging by the first episode of the new series it is better than ever. Didn't it once feature grinning celebrities in the audience in the past? There is none of that in episode one, just wall-to-wall all killer no filler genuine laughs.

The first host is Sara Pascoe, who is very much a TV regular now and is a commanding confident presence. Anyone who has seen Pascoe perform recently will know much of her material – her fondness for yoga, her visit to Paris, her break up with her boyfriend – but her short warm-up set works as an excellent primer for anyone who hasn't seen her before and should shift some tickets for her London run in January. I particularly liked her line about not liking theatre. Or rather not liking being in the audience at a theatre: "I know it's not real, there are people around me eating crisps."

First guest was Mock The Week star Gary Delaney, who was introduced with the words: "the best joke writer this country has ever created." No pressure then. What Delaney lacks in stage presence though he more than makes up for with exquisitely crafted gags. Each joke is like a perfectly sculpted ornament, put on display one at a time for the audience's enjoyment. His set was pretty smutty – often punching down and mocking his own sexual inadequacy – but the crowd certainly seemed to appreciate it. There was also a welcome dark streak when he twisted the usual image of a cosy family Yuletide with a nasty-but-nice quip about Christmas jumpers. 

The second and final guest was Larry Dean, whose Glaswegian accent will inevitably get him compared to Kevin Bridges by lazier critics than me (alright, me too), but after an initial riff about how Glaswegians manage to sound both friendly and scary at the same time he soon moved away and carved out his own onstage identity, discussing Brexit and the perpetual difference between England and Scotland. A routine about moving back home with his parents went in another direction after he did a big reveal - which fans will know about and I won't spoil if you don't. Let's just say after hearing this routine nobody will be comparing him to Kevin Bridges any more.

Live at the Apollo might not be as groundbreaking as it felt when it first ushered in the new wave of comedy superstars a decade ago, but it certainly does a good job showcasing current talent, mixing rising stars with more established names. Have a look here to see the full line-up. The only complaint I've heard is that it doesn't book enough older comics. As I said, it could run and run in its present form. But then what do I know, it might be axed after this series.

Live At The Apollo  BBC2, Thursdays from November 30 at 10pm.


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