Craig Campbell LiveThere are too few hirsute funny men in the world. The smooth, or pretentiously stubble’d, of chin still dominate at making us chortle. Fortunately charismatic comedian Craig Campbell will continue to right that wrong when he debuts his eccentric live show on iTunes this week. Already well established on the circuit and still touring his Edinburgh 2012 show with the Lumberjacks – alongside Stewart Francis and Glenn Wool – the distinctively bearded stand-up is now ready to stand alone. Recognisable from slots on Michael Mcintyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Russell Howard’s Good News and Dave’s One Night Stand, Craig once upon a time appeared in the nation’s living rooms as the presenter of Sky One’s forgettable reality show From Wimps to Warriors.

The self-confessed action man is a natural – if whimsical – storyteller. He spins involved, inventive and often hilarious yarns from anecdotes gathered on his extensive travels. He has a wonderful command of accents and brings the colourful characters alive with self-deprecation and a deceptively sharp wit. Although I had dismissed them as convenient PR pigeonholing, poster comparisons to Billy Connelly are pretty fair. Craig’s facial antics alone twin him with the elder statesman of stand-up. But the real common ground is to be found in the darkly chipper material. Drawing on themes of national identity – casting himself as the stranger in a strange land – and gently mocking those stereotypes, in the opening moments of his act he establishes a profane but affectionate connection with the audience which buoys the energy throughout the show.

Jabbing straight for the funny bone from the outset, with an astute gag about the way we Brits employ disregard as insult, he wins over the crowd with a spot of moose molestation before segueing into the first of a series of splendid travel anecdotes. In a lovely, if unintentional, nod to the Connelly compliment Craig begins his vocal voyage in Scotland. The tale of a cross-cultural miscommunication at a late night bakery raised a genuine belly laugh and, pleasingly, it was the first of many I expelled at this energetic and clever routine. Body surfing the stage and the crests of the audience’s appreciation with lumbering grace he ushered in taller and bawdier tales without losing their confidence, or mine. And anyone who can make the tedious city of Brussels amusing is truly a master of their craft.

Those parallels with The Big Yin were always inevitable given their shared fondness for globetrotting misadventures. Ultimately it would be more accurate to describe Craig Campbell as an outdoorsy Lebowski – albeit a Lebowski who has traded the mellow of his White Russians and herb for the buzz of playing to a crowd. He may have a dozen times the energy of the original but he retains the endearing, stringless-puppet stagger and, like The Big L, I suspect that this Dude will abide.



‘Craig Campbell Live’ is available exclusively on the iTunes Store® now.