Arthur Smith at The Cellars at Eastney

Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith

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Grumpy? He may look it, but Arthur is actually a big old wrinkly sack ’o’ fun.

The elder statesman of comedy, teetering, as he does, on the brink of national treasuredom, filled a crowded Cellars with laughter.

Launching a new series of Comedy Club nights at the revamped venue, we learned what makes Arthur grumpy, but also what inspires him.

As a stalwart of Radio 4, but also of BBC’s The One Show or as he calls it “Blue Peter for grown-ups”, Arthur has his finger on the pulse of what people are talking about.

That makes his comedy relevant and intelligent, retaining bite, but with a mischievous edge.

He endeared himself to his audience with some observations on local life, having dined in the nearby Eastney Tavern.

Even The News did not escape his beady eye as he alighted on a story of a daytime burglar who “should have been working nights.”

We guffawed to quick-fire gags, word-play, a dash of poetry, a reading from his book, and hilarious interplay with an audience member involving an unfortunate tortoise called Humphrey.

The Cellars was the perfect venue, with no barriers between the man and his lubricated, willing audience.

A great warm-up man, too, in Nick Page, with his ideas for iPhone apps and a meticulously delivered routine about a run-in with the law.

A laugh a minute.