When Sean Hughes was 13 he saw Richard Pryor Live at The Sunset Strip and he knew there and then what he wanted to do with his life. He dreamt that one fine day he would be able to go on stage and be free to tell the truth and say whatever he wanted. At the age of 19 he left Dublin and came to London to try his luck in comedy clubs such as Jongleurs. In 1990, when Hughes was 24, he went to the Edinburgh Festival with low expectations but to his surprise he won the Perrier award and was offered a TV Series (which resulted in Sean’s Show) and a publishing deal (which resulted in Sean’s Book.)
Some might feel that success made a failure of Sean Hughes because although being a TV presenter and radio host earned him fame and fortune, he stopped being thought of as a comedian. At the age of age of 40 Hughes landed the role of “Pat the love rat” in Coronation Street . When this acting stint came to an end he decided to return to the stage. However by now Sean Hughes had changed his outlook. “I know my job is to make people laugh” he told one journalist, “but my agenda is to tell the truth not to tell jokes.”
When The Right Side of Wrong Live DVD was released in 2007, fans of Sean’s Show and Sean’s Book may well have felt saddened or concerned that the Sean Hughes on stage at The Journal Tyne Theatre in Newcastle was rather different from the 90’s Sean they’d fell in love with. The 41 year old Sean is less romantic, less innocent, less kind and less sensitive. The good news is that he is more honest and he is still funny. Maybe 75% of what Hughes says in this show is about how he’s grown old without growing up...
“I thought when I was 41, I would be married with kids. Well, to be honest I thought I would be married with weekend access.” He claims the reason he’s back on stage for the first time in a decade is partly because stand-up is his first love and partly because his next door neighbours have got a kid whose learning to play the trumpet.
He had reached a level of fame where people didn’t know whether they’ve seen on TV him on if he was a neighbour that lived 4 doors down from them. He talks of having one night stands with 25 year-old women who don’t seem to care that he’s now dependent on ear and nose clippers, pills, supplements and afternoon naps. He says he refuses to go down on them, it’s not because he’s selfish, he’s just worried his back could go at any minute. For Sean the idea of having a threesome is unappealing as it would mean he had two people he’d have to ignore in the morning.
The show is one hour and 40 minutes long. There is odd material about speed dating women in hijabs – ("Hey great eyes! Hey great eyes!") and a surprising section about how Disneyland should employ people with Downs to dress up as Mickey Mouse and hug people. Sean talks to an 18 year old in the audience whose name is Mark. When Sean discovers Mark works in a Morrison’s Supermarket and doesn’t have a girlfriend, he hands him a plate of biscuits. The weirdest routine is about taking ecstasy and going to a Holocaust museum.
It’s not an evening of non-stop laughs. Some sections about him needing a drink at 9am are likely to make you feel rather sad but this show is worth seeking out as there are flashes of brilliance and moments where he is every bit as impressive and honest as his comedy heroes. Fans like me who feel it's a tragedy he died so young can watch this show and feel some consolation by the fact that his dream came true.
Review by Simone Hoffs 2017