Jeff Innocent: Eco-Worrier

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Review

This is not one of those Edinburgh stunt shows, established stand-up Jeff Innocent tells us at one point, even though the premise would fit the job perfectly.

The idea is that this handy Cockney geezer, inspired by the birth of his child, decided to change his ways and so, after 51 years of not giving a damn, lead a more ethical life: cycling rather than driving, Fair Trade rather than Nescafe, farmers' markets rather than supermarkets. Now he looks more like a 'middle-class dad at the Womad music festival' than the nightclub bouncer he formerly resembled.

The reason Eco Worrier is not a stunt show, charting his progress towards some contrived goal, is because this is his actual life now, not merely a marketing gimmick. Essentially, then, what we get is a vanilla stand-up show, but with routines and anecdotes informed by his newfound lifestyle.

It's fair enough, Innocent is a gifted comic ­ sharp, amiable but in control, with a well-honed sense of mickey taking ­ to ensure we're all having fun. But you can't help but feel he's missed a trick in not theming the show more strongly to make it something more than the collection of amusing Stand-Up Stories we've come up with.

After a bit of good-natured, and gag-laden, banter, Innocent's first story involves an altercation in a Brighton coffee shop, in which he self-effacingly describes his attitude to the policeman who was called, and the copper's individualistic style. It's got nothing at all to do with the eco idea ­ so he has to mention that the coffee he was ordering was Fair Trade just to tie it into the show.

Innocent has some sport with the moral superiority he now feels, but it's hard to tread lighter upon this earth without stumbling. His job takes him to Hong Kong, an environmental disaster in itself, but also requiring a long-haul flight with a hefty carbon footprint. His working-class angst has been replaced with middle-class guilt.

The ambiguities, contradictions and compromises he must make in his new life are fully covered. How, for example, to cope with the fact that multinational corporations have hijacked ethical trading ideas and sold them back to the public -­ even though they're still inherently evil companies? And he instinctively mistrusts the marketing blurb on many a Fair Trade product.

As a stand-up, Innocent's natural stance is cynicism, which means the ecological subject matter isn't treated with the deference it might have received in the hands of a soppier, more naïve tree-hugger, but the plain speaking of a brusque East Londoner. His recycling ethos doesn't extend to jokes, you'll be pleased to hear, so giving him a fresh take on the subject.

It makes for a solidly amusing hour. You have to admire Innocent's intent, and he's a genuinely funny man. But as a show, Eco Worrier is lacking that robust structure or narrative arc that would make it really special.

Steve Bennett

 

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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