Some marry for love, some for money, and some – you would be forgiven for thinking – for reliable standup material. Rob Beckett, for instance, married across class lines, which is a good career move in UK comedy. One day, the British appetite may be exhausted for class-based laughs, for fish out of water tales of journeys up and down the social ladder, for them and us and how the other half lives eye-rolling. But that day is not remotely nigh, and until then acts such as Beckett, whose in-laws’ lives are apparently so unrecognisable from his own, and who’s got the jokes to show for it, will continue to prosper.
What’s most interesting about the abundant class material in Beckett’s upbeat touring show, Wallop, is that there’s a teensy bit of needle behind it. This cheeky chappie’s a bit chippy. Which is a good thing: it provides a faint but persistent heartbeat to some sections (such as the one that dismisses skiing as irredeemably posh) you might otherwise pronounce – well, if not dead then on life support.
The show’s most notable routine concerns the recent Mary Poppins remake, that made Beckett’s not-so-blue blood boil. He’s agog that we’re asked to sympathise with the film’s fabulously wealthy characters, whose privilege goes wholly unchecked. He bridles at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s cockney accent, and wonders (with no little edge to the inquiry) why other cultures must never be appropriated but the down-at-heel Londoner’s is fair game. Beckett then imagines himself cast as Miranda in the Hamilton man’s biopic; it’s an eloquent reversal. I would love Beckett to reinforce the righteous indignation and get political. But that is not happening: he’s a prime time man, and Wallop keeps it middle-of-the-road. In the first half, he marvels at how much space his in-laws have on their kitchen surfaces, and makes the kind of jokes about coq au vin you might have thought beneath a professional standup. One odd routine – that lacks an ending – finds him fancying the drag queens in the musical Kinky Boots. In a later vivid anecdote, his family (“I’m related to some absolute fucking scum!”) supply the ham at a friend’s wedding.
There’s seldom anything interesting happening comedically. You could call some of these jokes first base, but I’m not sure the one about his foreskin, or the one about people who smoke roll-up cigarettes being paedophiles, even get that far. There is a quip about a song on a CBeebies show that’s four parts setup to one part flatlining payoff; and there is an anecdote about soiling himself at Disneyland.
But Beckett has a perky likability that’s proof against duff jokes. There is blunt comedy to be found in the mix of unpretentiousness and south London lingo, such as when he imagines finding a coconut in an unexpected place: “fuzzy bastard in me mixed nuts!” A story about swimming in a Slovenian lake advertises his skills as a raconteur and gleeful self-satirist: the laughs are larded on as Beckett struggles to haul his tubby body out of the water and on to a pontoon.
At the end the show trades in rudimentary humour – about Beckett’s man boobs, for which he has many a lurid simile, and at the spectacle he makes of himself, with a slight sartorial adjustment, to close the show. It’s more meat and potatoes than coq au vin, and intentionally so – but now and then, Beckett offers up something succulent to chew on.
•At Kings theatre, Glasgow, on 19 November. Then touring.