The co-creator of The Office and Extras has had it up to *here*
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Despite his much talked-about height (much talked-about by him, especially), Stephen Merchant is best known as the less visible half of the comedy writing duo that created The Office. But those who have followed the work of Gervais and Merchant from that initial series through to Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts, Life's Too Short and beyond might be surprised by his stand-up persona.
There's little of the perpetual smiliness of Darren from Extras here, or the casual grinning off-handedness of his and Gervais's shows for XFM. Even when he's the butt of his own gags – which is often – Merchant in stand-up mode is an angrier and bitterer creature than we might have expected. His complaints about being cropped out of newspaper pictures and journos getting his name wrong approach the teeth-gritted egotism of, well, Gervais.
This is not to say the angry stuff isn't quality – it is – just that Merchant is funnier when he turns his observations into full-blown imagined scenarios that rely on situation and character (think Hitler talking to Jesus in Gervais's Politics): the last-minute wedding crasher who decides not to "forever hold his peace", the apologetic doctor who turns to SMS-speak, the man in desperate need of a Venn diagram. Hello Ladies is a strong stand-up debut that ultimately demonstrates he was always destined to write for television.