At one point, about fifteen minutes before Liverpudlian comedian Paul Smith takes to the stage at Leeds Academy, the front few rows are packed out while, just behind them, there is a gap of about two or three rows. It seems some people are nervous about sitting in the Scouse funnyman’s line of fire. However, as showtime approaches, the Academy has filled out for Paul Smith’s return to Leeds and he does not disappoint his growing army of fans.
Walking out to the stage, the Scouser explains the way the show will work as he quickly focuses on his targets in the front row. Those of you who have already seen Smith in action know that his quick-witted banter is becoming legendary and, as he “gets to know his audience”, he was on top form much to the discomfort of his targets. However, while Smith delivers what his fans expect of him, the second half of the show sees him take things down a more formulated stand-up routine.
Before that though, Paul explains how he likes to give opportunities to rising stars of the UK comedy circuit before introducing Chester comic Danny McLoughlin. Admitting he is used to playing much smaller venues, McLoughlin looks just as comfortable in bigger venues and quickly slips into his routine joking about how much he “hates young people”. Confessing to being a fan of Gullivers World, the theme park equivalent of a council estate before switching things up a gear into a routine about sex education, girlfriends and losing his virginity, McLoughlin was the perfect warm-up for tonight showing that, when he returns to “grimy venues” on his March tour, he’s going to be one not to miss.
Pre-pandemic, everything was going right for Scouser Paul Smith. He was earning a ton of money, selling out tours and readying himself for a close to sell-out tour in 2020. Not bad for a comedian who up to that point, and by his own admission, “just winged it and chatted about whatever had happened to me two days before”. Then the pandemic hit and every theatre shut leaving Smith high and dry with no income and no work for the foreseeable future. Perfect timing for a man who, weeks earlier, had just bought himself a new £95k Mercedes.
But that seems to be the story of Smith’s life – casually making his way through each day there seems to be trouble around every corner whether Smith wants it or not. Pre-pandemic though, this didn’t bother the Scouser who was now not only earning enough money to be out of his overdraft and able to do a proper shop in Tesco’s without resorting to buying the cheap stuff, he was also earning enough to spend £800 on a t-shirt that he couldn’t put in the washing machine.
As the title of his new show highlights though, life changed for Smith and for an hour he takes us on a journey through those life-changing moments. The first major one being his split from his long-term partner and into the murky world of Tinder dating, a world Smith himself admits he wasn’t ready for. A chance meeting at one of his comedy nights led him into a new relationship and one with someone who gets into as much trouble as the comedian himself.
When it becomes apparent to Smith that his new partner is becoming as popular as he is, as a result of their podcast “What’s the Story Paul and Lori?”, it ends up with the comic landed with a delivery of a back-breaking box of sex toys and down a path of sexual discovery most people would probably keep behind closed doors and not chat about to roomful of strangers in Leeds. His life of discovery continues as he experiments with psychedelic drugs for the first time with one of his best friends an experience that changes his outlook on life.
Wrapping up the show after an hour, although life has changed for Smith over the past two years in dramatic fashion, those life-changing experiences are going to help Smith shift from almost cult-like status into a household name and, once that happens, for the man “they won’t allow on the telly”, there will be no stopping him.
Get the rest of the “Changed” tour dates here.