On Monday night, Mr C and I rocked up to Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena to watch Michael McIntyre do his thing. It’s been on my Life List for a while to watch a comedian live, because it turns out I have never done that before. I don’t remember why it was Mr McIntyre that received the privilege of being my first comedian (there may have been alcohol involved when purchasing the tickets), but he seemed like a pretty safe bet.
Like a fool, I was a bit surprised at how big the NIA is, perhaps the word ‘arena’ didn’t actually sink in to my brain until we actually got inside. I’ve been past it in Birmingham’s city centre many times but never really clocked the size of it before. When we were wandering around the peripheral, peeking through the doors to the main area, it was like looking through the door to the TARDIS – lots of bright colours crammed into a space you wouldn’t quite think was big enough.
It was big enough, though. For lots and lots of people, and one tiny stage. They cram you in, lots of people too close together, with uncomfortable seats. But we perched and waited for McIntyre to appear.
He bounced onto the stage after a video introduction that boomed far too loud, people around us were putting their fingers in their ears! The energetic McIntyre began his routine with a bit of audience interaction, and a bit of local ribbing. It was good, the expected Michael McIntyre fare, but I found it weird because I couldn’t see him. There was no point looking at the tiny suit running around, when such a lot of comedy comes from the face. The only place to look was at the screens, so it only took about ten minutes before I was starting to think “I really could just be watching this at home.”
Once that thought was in my head, it became really very clear how uncomfortable the seats were. I’m not exactly a giant, and my knees were digging into the metal bar in front of the seat. Even when twisted slightly to the right to be able to view the screens better, it was leaving a bit of a dent in my kneecap. Mr C is more of a giant than I am, and thankfully we had ourselves an aisle seat. Even with that, it was bad backs and cramp all round.
One of the arguments for going to live events is the atmosphere that you just don’t get when you’re watching something at home. For somewhere like Glastonbury, or for sporting events, I can absolutely understand that. For this live comedy outing, I didn’t feel there was any atmosphere to be missed. The only thing that was specific to the location was Michael attempting a rather worrying Birmingham accent.
We left at the interval (a break halfway through that was stretched to half an hour, sandwiched between two 50 minute halves. What are you meant to do for half an hour?) and came home with the intent of snapping up the gig when it’s available on iTunes (or watching when it is inevitably on the BBC at Christmas).
I was disappointed but not in the gig – McIntyre was funny as ever – more in the concept and the venue. I hadn’t anticipated that live comedy would have the same kind of problems that going to the cinema does, and from what I can tell there are no benefits of being somewhere live. I asked Mr C if seeing a comedian in a smaller venue would make a difference and he came to the conclusion that it doesn’t really make any more atmosphere, it’s just that you are likely to have more comfortable seats. I will probably try and see a comedian in less of an arena and more of a theatre, but I’m not convinced this is a live event I’m going to get hooked on.
We may be getting old, but there was a lingering stiffness for 24 hours post-gig, and we only sat through half of it. I dread to think of how we would be holding up if we’d been there for the whole thing.