Lembit Öpik’s standup debut – a star is (re)born?

“Thanks to 13,976 Tory voters for kick-starting a career I didn’t even know I wanted.”

-Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Öpik performed his first standup comedy gig last night, winning plaudits for his delivery, if not his jokes.

Julian Hall of the Independent gave him two stars:

There was a kind of bittersweet irony that, on the day of the first Prime Minister’s Question Time of the coalition government, the former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik was performing an open-spot stand-up gig in a tiny basement comedy club. Opik, it could be argued, has performed comedy in a niche environment on both sides of the election.

Formerly engaged to one of the pop duo The Cheeky Girls, and one of the more flamboyant MPs of the last parliament, Opik’s celebrity lifestyle seemed to have caught up with him last month when he lost one of the Liberal Democrat’s safest seats, Montgomeryshire.

Not a man to be deterred – he once cheated death after a paragliding accident – Opik wasted little time in arranging this stand-up spot after the election, though the brouhaha that has surrounded it suggests it is a conduit to further celebrity activity rather than a career in comedy.

The Guardian’s Paul Fleckney gives a good account of Lembit’s act, which featured shoe ventriloquy, self deprecation and celebrity hecklers. He summarises:

Behind Opik’s Liberal Democrat rosette (which he wore on stage, presumably in self-mocking reference to his disastrous election night) you could sense confidence, lucidity, composure, sharpness. His set had structure. All of this gives him two years on other novice comedians. One gag about becoming mayor of London, which gently ribbed Boris Johnson, and another about being ignored in a lift by Nick Clegg, were nicely delivered.

You can also listen to Lembit’s introduction, with Labour MP Stephen Pound and arts editor Will Gompertz’s verdict at the BBC Radio 4 website.

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  • What an embarassment. I am glad he is gone.

  • Lembit is a well known figure with a strong commitment to the party. He has a lot to offer and I hope that he finds a new role. Clement Freud successfully mixed comedy and politics and Lembit could well do the same. The party will be stronger if we find a position for him. Ed

  • We shouldn’t be too quick to forget that Lembit served the party 13 years and did a good job in his various roles. Having a go at stand-up shouldn’t detract from that.

  • Tom Papworth 10th Jun '10 - 10:46am

    I suspect that this was merely an outing for Lembit, who will have his eye on bigger game.

    I hope that that role is within the Lib Dems as he is strongly committed to liberalism and campaigns hard for freedom and human rights. When he on the front bench a couple of years ago he took his portfolios (energy; housing) very seriously.

    I hope we can harness his talents.

    I do, however, hope he never does ventriloquism with a shoe, again.

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