Character comedy is possibly my favourite form of comedy, and when it’s right it’s untouchable. Yesterday I had never encountered Neil Mullarkey’s L. Vaughan Spencer. Today he is right up there with the best. Spencer is a life coach, a guru specialising in motivation and vitality and motivitality. The title of his show says it all: “Don’t Be Needy, Be Succeedy”. Spencer had come to us mere mortals to teach us success. Not that we were failures, he insisted – just non-achievers. He wanted to put us in touch with our inner dolphin. He wanted us to be him.

Mullarkey’s imitation of a motivational speaker was absolutely spot-on. He told a story of how he spent time with the Red Indians – or, to be PC, we should now call them “Native Red Indians”. The Cherokee accepted him into their tribe, giving him the name Talking Bull. And for two hours Spencer talked the most eloquent bull. He wanted us to be positive, which can achieved by repeated use of the word “yes”. Say yes to yes and no to no! We learnt how important spellology is – correct spelling is one of the most important steps to success, alongside moisturising and not wearing pants older than six months. Did you realise that LIVE is an anagram of EVIL? And LOVE an anagram of VOLE? It’s very important not to mix these words up. L. Vaughan (or L-Vo, as he liked to be nicknamed) asked: do you realise that the first four letters of SELF-ESTEEM are SELF? My eyes were opened. It goes on – take away the S and you have ELF. Are you a man or a pixie? Wow. Inspirational stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The character of Vaughan was so well rounded, so absolutely full of self-confidence, that it easily lasted the act. Mullarkey’s interaction with the audience was natural and assured, using a handful of people as props, at one point inviting potential succeeder Paul up onto the stage to recreate swimming with dolphins off Torquay. But Mullarkey took this character much further through his use of rap poetry – “poetry in motivation” – that peppered the act. The mileage that he wrung just from the word “succeed” astounds me. The more he used it, the funnier it got – he wanted us to succeederise our lives, study succeederology. At one point he had us all singing along to the song the Monkees almost wrote, “I’m A Succeeder”. Even as we left the theatre, it was to Phil Collins’s “Sussudio” with the chorus dubbed (badly) with Mullarkey singing “Succeedio”.

Crucially, Mullarkey inhabited L-Vo completely, right to his baggy tangerine suit and ponytail (a product of Tong Shui). He never offered the slightest hint of judgement or distance, never invited derision of the fact that the L. Vaughan Foundation is based in Luton or that his Warrior Weekends take place in a hotel in Watford. He never even suggested that Spencer was a conman; he really lives in a narcissistic world of complete self-delusion. As he pointed out proudly, “I’ve had two very successful marriages.” That Spencer believed the crock he spouted made it all the funnier, and by extension exposed how ludicrous all those real so-called motivational speakers are. As satire, this was on the money, but it was the character that made the show. “Don’t Be Needy, Be Succeedy” was an ingenious production, brilliantly performed, and, quite simply, extremely funny. I laughed like a drunk gibbon. And today I’m a succeeder!