Moran is perhaps best known for his role in the early-noughties sitcom Black Books as the titular Bernard Black. International viewers may recognise him from his supporting roles in the Simon Pegg films Shaun of the Dead, and Run, Fat Boy, Run. But stand up comedy fans will know him as the chain smoking, heavy drinking cultural philosopher who tackles subjects such as ageing, illness, science, politics and, in the case of his latest show, Alan Rickman’s cats.
It was with his back-catalogue firmly in mind that I headed down in the heavy rain to the wonderful Tyne Theatre for a showing of his latest show Dr. Cosmos. Moran is currently in the middle of his first tour in a number of years and it was with great anticipation that I settled down to enjoy a few hours of his unique take on the current goings on in this bizarre world.
Before he said his first word, the talk of the room was about how different the show might be now that Moran is newly sober and a non-smoker. Gone are the glasses of red wine and gin, replaced instead with a fresh pot of boiling tea. I am happy to report that any fears of changed style were quickly put to bed as soon as he stumbled his way up to the microphone.
There is a sincerity in Moran’s new show that is not there in some of his earlier work
It is almost impossible for any stand-up these days who deals with the wider world to ignore the topics of Brexit and the buffoon in the White House and Moran was no exception. However, what makes his show so different is the way in which he tackles these topics. He is in no way preachy or overtly angry, rather he puts these topics in their wider context of the craziness of the modern world with surreal tangents and metaphors aplenty. It is easy for anyone to get an easy laugh by attacking Trump or millennial puratism, but Moran does so through the prism of ageing, or as he puts it ‘Everyone thinks everything was better yesterday and worse today’ and this simply repeats and intensifies as the days pass and we get older. Moran’s whole show is an attempt to break this self-defeating cycle.
The show was less surreal than his previous efforts and some in the audience were disappointed with his quite mainstream choice of topics. However, unlike others, Moran’s show does make a philosophical point throughout and not the one you might expect. Underneath all the anxiety and misanthropy that is at the surface of his stand-up, is the message that the only way to fix things is to stop complaining about the little things and treat each other better. Hence the semi-ironic title of his show Dr. Cosmos. This he states, is the cure to everything.
There is a sincerity in Moran’s new show that is not there in some of his earlier work. A result of his children entering the wider world and his sobriety no doubt. Overall it left me feeling much more optimistic stepping back out into the late Newcastle night that I had expected. Moran’s targets may have changed, but he his brilliant use of language and surreal semaphore has not. Dr. Cosmos is not Moran’s best show, defined as it is by current affairs topics. However, if you have grown tired of either the bland observations of McIntyre or aimless cynicism of a Boyle or a Burr, then Moran’s new show is for you.