I was just thinking how strange it was that Michael McIntyre had morphed into Lang Lang, the ebullient Chinese pianist – the floppy jet-black hair, the chipolata-like body, the plump Jackie Chan cheeks – when he read my mind and agreed. Well, more or less. Introducing his brand new chat show with a burst of pre-emptive self-mockery, he flashed up images showing how remarkably similar he looks to the Chinese man you see when you download Skype, or the ruler of North Korea (not sure which one, but they’re all related).
One way or another everything in McIntyre’s new show was all about McIntyre. But what did you expect? There are two ways to run a chat show. The first one is to get your guests to talk at length, and hope that while doing so they might run beyond their carefully prepared set of approved anecdotes and let slip something they’d have preferred not to. This method has largely gone out of fashion, so McIntyre inevitably ended up with method two: keep raving hysterically about yourself while intermittently reminding your guests how magnificent and legendary they are. That way, nobody need fear defenestration from their precious showbiz bubble.
The fact that we had nearly 15 minutes of McIntyre’s solo warm-up made it quite clear that the guests were of strictly secondary importance, and their carefully rationed slots ensured that their ‘chat’ consisted of little more than agreeing with the host that they were indeed marvellous. ‘You’re a legend!’ sobbed McIntyre as Terry Wogan, the very first guest on his very first show, ambled from the wings wearing that familiar ‘do I really get paid for this?’ expression. It was curious how the audience greeted this comfy old entertainer with rapturous shrieking and applause which would have been more appropriate for the second coming of The Beatles, or Burton and Taylor in their heyday.
Lily Allen has a reputation for outspoken bolshiness, but in the teeth of McIntyre’s gale of powder-puff hilarity and apoplectic arm-waving she became rather coy and docile. Then she found herself comprehensively upstaged when McIntyre cunningly lured her into the Battle of the Australian Accents, McIntyre’s being not only far superior but also a useful pretext for him to brag about his recent tour Down Under.
That only left Lord Sugar, who skilfully refused to be drawn outside his brutally deadpan comfort zone. He told rather a good story about having tea with the Queen, who delivered a brief lecture about football tactics. McIntyre just kept burbling on regardless: ‘I’m a huge fan of The Apprentice… I want to show this clip of you cos it’s just hysterical… Please join me in thanking the wonderful Lord Sugar!’
Not that McIntyre isn’t funny; he’s super-fast with a comeback, and he does a good gag where he steals an audience member’s phone and sends embarrassing texts to all their contacts. It’s just that this isn’t a chat show (yet).
Adam Sweeting is a documentary film-maker, critic and TV editor for theartsdesk.com