Jimmy Carr: Charm Offensive

Note: This review is from 2003

Review by Steve Bennett

Last year, Jimmy Carr's show was called Bare Faced Ambition, an unusually honest admission of his reason for coming to the Fringe.

"I wanted to get on telly," he says at the start of this show, adding in typical supercilious manner: "Big tick me."

The bulk telly work, of course, is Channel 4's embarrassingly shallow Your Face Or Mine?, already winning him new fans. "June Sarpong," comes one heckle, referring to his fragrant co-host.

Carr's now as consummate at dealing with such interruptions as he is at writing supremely polished gags, all he does is heighten his superior air and sneer at the commonness of anyone with their head above the parapet. Rather than dismissing all random interruptions with a shrugged apology of not doing banter "on account of being a bit shit at it," Carr is now relaxed enough with his persona to take them on.

Yes, he's slicker than a dozen snakes in a vat of four-star - possibly even slicker than Bob Monkhouse - but there's just enough of a trace of irony to makes every evil comment seem somehow acceptable. "Now I don't want to sound cruel..." he starts one gag, and already the audience is laughing in anticipation of whatever politically incorrect thought is coming.

The arrogant stance is a very American style, and it's no wonder Carr's starting to make inroads across the pond. Combined with his stereotypical Englishness, the package is complete.

One-liners are his forte, of course, and this show has more laughs per pound than any other on the Fringe. An hour, though, is a long time to fill with his simple "feedline, punchline, laugh" formula, so a few diversionary tactics are employed to vary the pace.

Thus he tells us of the selection of bizarre adverts placed in newspapers around the country - even more hilarious when you consider most were placed through human operators oblivious to the content - and unveils this summer's collection of typically heartless Jimmy Carr merchandise.

The only section that doesn't really come off is a piece of audience participation, as Carr invited three punters to help him act out a World War One play he has written in a supposed attempt to add depth to his comedy. It's reasonably funny watching the amateurs mug away at the clunkingly incompetent script, but it has more than a touch of the Generation Game about it.

Carr's future may well be as the cold, arrogant and cynical host of more cruel game shows, he could well even be the next Angus Deayton, but in the meantime his live show remains a guilty pleasure. Try to indulge yourself.

Review date: 1 Jan 2003
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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