Rhod Gilbert, The Book of John, York Barbican

FAST as a new Azuma train, Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert burst on to the Barbican stage last night, determined to deliver a turbo-charged set.

It was in keeping with the publicity poster for the tour: a photo of him jumping in the air and out of an open book, next to the words “The Book of John”.

Anyone thinking Gilbert had returned to stand-up after a seven-year break because of a religious conversion was soon put right when he explained the title of the show referred to his former chauffeur, John – his “muse”.

Gilbert has had a terrible time of late: losing his mother to Alzheimer’s, suffering a small stroke, struggling with infertility, and dealing with his wife’s painful endometriosis.

Heavy going for a Friday night, but not in Gilbert’s clever comic hands.

Because of the stroke, Gilbert was unable to drive for a year and so hired a chauffeur: John. This turned out to be a comedy goldmine: John was not the brightest man, but full of opinions and liked to talk. Gilbert wrote it all down: hence, The Book of John.

The driver agreed Gilbert could use the material so long as some of the money went to charity (there was a collection for Alzheimer’s on the night).

Often, Gilbert read from the book, sharing their weird and twisted conversations. But the comedian was at his best when he detoured, using the car chats as the departure point for a hilarious anecdote.

The sell-out show was laugh-out-loud funny – and moving, and it was inspiring to see a comic willing to talk about taboo subjects such as the male biological clock.

Gilbert is working on a documentary on infertility: wonder what John will make of that?