Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
On Thursday night come six o’clock, instead of stepping into my PJs, I donned my best jeans and a ‘nice top’ as my other half and I were swapping a night in front of the telly with a mug of milk for an evening of parent-friendly entertainment with an accompanying beer (of the ginger sort, it being Dry January and all).
We made our way to Salford Quays’ Lowry Theatre for a rendezvous with Sam Avery aka The Learner Parent. Sam is a stand-up comedian, viral blogger (indeed known to me via his very entertaining Facebook feed) and best-selling author.
Following the birth of his twin boys three years ago, he found his niche as a comedian with his honest, hilarious insights into parenthood. As a mum of a three and a one-year-old, when I found out Sam was taking ‘The Learner Parent’ to stage, I was set on going to see him. My favourite kind of comedy is observational and when the subject matter is highly relatable to my life, we must be on to a sure-fire winner. Tales of tantrums, potty-training parables and post-baby relationship regales, Sam’s carefully crafted content sounded to be an offering of anecdotes from my own life.
I’d never heard Sam speak ahead of the gig; I’d only read his experiences. I kind of knew what to expect in terms of content but had no idea as to how he would deliver it. Sam is a natural storyteller; a likeable, down-to-earth Northern fella who has the ability to turn everyday occurrences into a worthwhile, funny narrative.
Sam’s reference to toddler behaviour had us nodding in ‘We’ve been there’ recognition and his little rant about always being the one to put the car seats in the car, couldn’t have resonated with my other half more. Whether Sam’s talking about bath-time, breastfeeding or the birth itself, if you’re a parent, I defy you not to smile at what you’ll find to be an all too relatable recital. If you’re not a parent, Sam said himself that his show offers fool-proof contraception.
Throughout his hour and a half performance, I shared Sam’s highs and lows of parenthood and relived many of my own. It’s comedy. It’s entertaining. Yet, it’s also therapy. It’s reassuring. Being a parent isn’t the ‘best job’ in the world. It’s rewarding. It’s the ‘best thing’ in the world. But my word, it’s tiring. I loved his end to the first half, describing the second half as a time for us all to have a nap; he’d even supply the blankets. His show united the audience and offered a cheery consolation that we’re not the only ones struggling with difficult yet delightful little darlings.
I certainly enjoyed Sam’s account of adulthood once children arrive, but I wanted more anecdotes, more stories. The potential is huge and sometimes I felt he spent a tad too long embellishing one example rather than hitting us with another humdinger of a drama. I don’t take offence to conversational swearing and his routine was peppered with language he wouldn’t want his sons to repeat. In the context of this show, whereby he often referred to what his offspring were thinking, swapping ‘shit’ for ‘poo’ would probably have made some stories even funnier.
All in all, ‘The Learner Parent’ will have you laughing out loud. Sam will put you at ease and you’ll leave happy that you’re doing your best in the minefield that is parenting. And you’ll have a great (if all too infrequent) night out to boot.
Sam Avery – The Learner Parent is currently touring the UK. For more information, tour dates and to book tickets, visit www.thelearnerparent.com.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000