Dara O'Briain

Some comics take a ponderous pace, carefully building to a crescendo; their act is finely wrought and honed over agonising hours of rehearsal and contemplation.

Dara O’Briain just explodes in a delicious, belly-laugh inducing, tsunami of comedy. Best known as the frontman of BBC2’s Mock The Week, on stage he is a slightly different beast – less contained, funnier, faster.

Delivering in one evening jokes that might take other acts a whole career to deliver, O’Briain weaved a brilliantly original set with improvisation mixing intellectual comedy with bawdy laughs and a surprising amount of mime.

Short conversations with the audience set him off on frenzied flights of comic genius, transforming Norwich’s Alan Boswell Group from an insurance firm to a modern dance collective creating a physical paean to yeast, and reprising a tale about the giant duck of Wymondham.

Ever the rationalist O’Briain also tackled some of his bête noires, including astronomy, psychics and the lack of imagination in school nativity plays: why return to the same old Christmas stories when children could instead enact other festive tales like Christmas Carol or, brilliantly, Die Hard?

The treatment is often surreal but always beautifully grounded, a balance that clearly delighted a sell-out Theatre Royal crowd.

O’Briain began his set by telling the story of the 2011 fireworks night in the Scottish town of Oban, where all the pyrotechnics were accidentally set off at once creating a brief but intense and impressive display. O’Briain on stage is like that, but for two hours. You can’t help leaving slightly stunned, and in complete awe.