Date Of Birth: 15/11/1968
Beiruit-born Dom Joly moved to Britain as a teenager, and started his professional career as a political producer for ITN. He then moved on to work off-camera on the first series of Channel 4's Mark Thomas Comedy Product.
He started doing hidden camera stunts as 'bumpers' between adverts and programmes on the Paramount Comedy Channel, and in 1998, made a pilot of Trigger Happy TV for Channel 4's Comedy Lab strand, which was commissioned for two full series, which run a silver Rose at the 2000 Montreux TV festival.
He was poached by the BBC for a rumoured £1 million, where he made the aggressive chat show This Is Dom Joly in 2003, before reverting to hidden camera work for World Shut Your Mouth in 2005.
He wrote a spoof autobiography in 2004 titled Look at ME, Look at ME! and writes a regular column for the Independent on Sunday
Dom Joly: Welcome To Wherever I Am
Before he embarked on this ambitious 70-date tour, Dom Joly said that he felt it was a way to prove himself worthy of the moniker ‘comedian’, since he’d never previously performed stand-up. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect, proving beyond doubt that he’s still no comedian.
It’s an underpowered, and quite frankly dull, trawl through a professional CV that you’d have to be a pretty dedicated Joly-watcher to be au fait with. The reality show Deadline, anyone? And such die-hard fans seem thin on the ground, judging by the number of empty seats in the of Peterborough’s Cresset venue, an epitome of uninspiring municipal architecture. With 66 more dates to go, you can only feel sympathy for a man embarking on a such a fraught, yet mammoth, endeavour…
Yet he doesn’t let the audience size faze him, nor even the lack of preparation that’s so apparent – and you rather like him for it, for his heart seems in the right place. But it doesn’t disguise the fact this – like much of John Cleese’s current tour – is a barely-glorified clip show. To be fair, the footage, especially from Trigger Happy TV, is pretty darn funny – but if, as a performer, you can’t offer much more than can be enjoyed for free on YouTube, putting it on in a theatre, let alone 70 of them, seems like folly.
In those early days on Channel 4, and on the Paramount Comedy Channel before that, Joly brought a playful wit to the practical joke, usually the last refuge of the humourless. But that frequently deserts him in the plodding, superficial script here. A fantastically well-travelled man, he should have a store of engrossing anecdotes to share. But he never really gets to grips with the art of storytelling, presenting these incidents in a surprisingly mundane, shallow way. They remain broadly interesting, but he’s telling the audience what happened with detachment, without taking them on the journey with him. Even when he’s describing strange trips to North Korea or back to his birthplace of Lebanon, where he went to school with one Osama Bin Laden – a man who subsequently took pranking a little too far.
Joly’s comedy is as wanting as he storytelling. He seems to believe telling us there’s a town in Newfoundland called Dildo is funny enough, but he doesn’t make a surprise out of it, nor milk it for every childish angle he could. It’s just a bald, mildly amusing, fact. And as for pointing out that US Immigration’s landing card ridiculous questions about whether you’ve engaged in genocide and terrorism has surely been noticed by every traveller heading for Disney World. Where’s his input to give it added value?
More laughs come from ad-libbed sections, such as answering the audience questions left on his Facebook (not the website, an actual book with his face on the cover, which he leaves open in the interval) – plus a couple of interludes that involve a physical release of inhibitions, from smashing up a cheap guitar to inviting the audience to stone him with prop rocks he flogs for a quid in the foyer. But the two biggest laughs of the night come from a quick-witted rejoinder from the auditorium, and Joly’s genuine Freudian slip of calling John Leslie ‘John Rapist’. Now that’s funny.
In such off-piste moments, he’s more sharp and engaging than he allows himself to be in the bulk of the show, where – like so many stand-up newbies – he seems reluctant to put too much of his own personality on the line. Sure, he’s mildly self-deprecating – as anyone who’s still primarily famous for dressing up as a giant squirrel or barking into an outsized mobile phone will probably have to be – and he gives off a ‘nice guy’ vibe; but there’s not enough of a personality, or personality flaws, to really feel he’s earned those comedian’s spurs.
Go expecting a limp ‘audience with…’ evening from some bloke who was on I’m A Celebrity… and you’ll receive a mildly pleasant surprise. Go expecting a night of laugh-out-loud stand-up and you’ll be disappointed.