Have you ever wondered what the voice of Love Island looks like? Or what his own love life is like? Well, you’re in luck, because Iain Stirling has recorded and released his first stand-up special for Prime Video.
The Gist: Iain Stirling’s voice is famous as the narrator for eight seasons and counting of Love Island in the UK. Stirling also has hosted the British game show CelebAbility, and co-created and starred in his own sitcom, Buffering, which is loosely based on his own young experiences hosting children’s TV.
He’s also produced a podcast and book titled, “Not Ready to Adult Yet,” and his stand-up comedy special, filmed in London, brings all of those experiences to bear here, as he grapples with being a husband, father and healthy, normal man in his mid-30s. Who just so happens to live in the public eye.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: Stirling is a contemporary of Scottish stand-up Daniel Sloss and British TV star Jack Whitehall, and his persona and accent may fit somewhere between the two, despite perhaps not being quite as famous as either of them.
Memorable Jokes: Stirling may well also have called this special, “Punching Above My Weight,” as he devotes several bits to this theme; chiefly among them: how the tabloids, taxi drivers and Twitter all view him as the much-lesser half in his marriage to Laura Whitmore, who’s also his co-worker since taking over as host of Love Island for season six.
One of the slights against Stirling? That’s he’s not slight, but “jolly,” or fat. Or thin person fat. Or as Stirling also described himself: “I’m a 32 waist, everywhere apart from my waist.”
There’s also act-outs about Scottish junkies, an explanation of why he could never host a Scottish version of The Bachelor, nor could he accept an invitation to a masquerade sex party, and a story about trying hot yoga and losing his shoes in the process.
Our Take: Another theme Stirling explores is his desire to be normal. Ironically, some of his stand-up material, such as coping with changes in your 30s or how women stick together in groups at the bar, is perhaps too normal and not exactly groundbreaking comedy.
What does make this special truly special, though, as well as 66 minutes long instead of a straight hour, is how Stirling interacts with the audience.
You hear them throughout the set, from his early mentions of his appearance. One fellow begins bantering with Stirling from afar: “Loving it!” and then “You’re all right!” Of the latter, Stirling called it “the kindest heckle of all time.”
But when Stirling tried to pivot back to more jokes about his looks, another man in the crowd interjected. Stirling had to pause. “OK, I, right. I’ve never have ever had to say this at a comedy gig in my entire life, but you’re gonna have to stop being so nice. Because it’s nice in the room, but on telly, it’s just like people giving me moral support, doesn’t really…” Applause. “Was the comedian funny? No, but he as full of confidence. He was buoyant. He was well-rested. He felt good in himself.”
More than a half-hour later, Stirling tacitly acknowledged how filming his stand-up also impacted the audience, joking about how the camera changes your impulses and actions. It certainly did so for Stirling, because not much later, a figure flashed across the screen, and he stops everything to comment upon and inquire about the man who just left for the loo. The show becomes a communal conversation about the man not in the room, and provides fodder for immediate jokes upon the man’s return that erupt both among the audience as a whole, as well as for the audience member himself. His convulsions of laughter ring true and reverberate through the screen to us.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Most stand-up specials fail precisely because they cannot translate or duplicate the vital experience of watching stand-up live in the room. This hour-plus has no such problem.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.