Gregg Jevin Memorial Concert

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Farewell Gregg Jevin, we hardly knew ye. ‘Legendary’ is a term used far too liberally in comedy, but never has that adjective been more apt than in his case.

He was a character of his time. Were it not for  Twitter, news of his death a fortnight ago, would never have spread so fast. After his passing was announced by comic Michael Legge, the news was picked up across the blogosphere, becoming a trending topic and being relayed by the likes of Charlie Brooker, BBC World Chris Addison, the Radio Times and Sarah Millican. Surely only a cynic would suggest these luminaries never really knew Jevin at all.

Then, through the spirit of community that binds comedians, this memorial gig was hastily arranged, attracting an impressive bill of comics all lining up to pay tribute to The Jevster. The man. The myth,

Legge had apparently been offered the Royal Albert Hall for the show – an ambitious potential booking considering it didn’t quite sell out the wonderfully intimate downstairs room of the Soho Theatre. But then in his all-too-brief time with us, Jevin was never of the mainstream.

Many of the comics tonight had personal memories of him that they put together especially for the show. A remarkably high number of them seemed to have been intimate with the man – a fact skilfully brought to attention by Shappi Khorasandi, when she frankly admitted her embarrassment that she had had the same idea for her witty Eulogy as so many others on the bill.  Rachel Parris, for example, put her erotic memories to music, performing elegant comedy about inelegant topics, while her stand-up sections demonstrated perfect timing of wryly funny lines.

More memories came from Ian Rankin. Yes, that one. ‘He’s someone with better things to do,’ Legge stated in amazement before reading what the the bestselling novelist had written about his  memories of Jevin, and how he got on so famously with one Detective Inspector John Rebus.

Nick Doody shared some intelligent one-liners about the phenomenon tat was Jevin before his impressively sharp stand-up set; while Mitch Benn was the Elton John of the gig, literally singing Jevin’s praises in an emotional ballad. Elsewhere Al Murray’s desperate beer-fuelled grief added an appealing layer of pathos to his usually boorish Pub Landlord, though he was still as commandeering as ever.

It was not only memories of Jevin that took Murray back. He also reprised his largely forgotten role from the mid-Nineties as drummer with the world’s first Jewish heavy metal band, Guns N Moses, alongside Dave Cohen, aka Ax’l Rosenberg.

Not everyone shared personal memories, some just did their act by way of tribute. Simon Evans sneered at the Welsh in his archly supercilious way, while Tony Law was delightfully bonkers in the opening slot, making no bones about his lack of so-called ‘material’, hilarious through his honesty.

But if that seemed insane, it was nothing as to Bridget Christie in her new guise of Louise Mensch, the Tory MP for East Norhamptonshire, complete with ridiculous mask, vividly bright wig, wartime tin hat, Richard III stoop and coal-eating baby. ‘Underplayed’ clearly isn’t in her vocabulary. The destruction of the politician’s supposed feminist ideals was as complete as it was shambolic – though that, Christie is eager to assure us, is entirely planned.

The rasping pensioner Barry From Watford is a character in roughly the same mould, and though his ancient gags fell on stony ground, his take on the creepily rubbish ventriloquist act is a delight. Soon afterwards, in just two imaginative, brilliantly executed skits, The Trap reminded us why they are one of the funniest and most inventive sketch groups ever. Broadcasters should hang their head in shame not to have them on air.

Among all the veterans, Twitter wit Moose Allain made his stand-up debut – and although his nerves were obvious as he read his tribute, the writing, honed by the discipline of sticking to a 140-character limit, was impressive, full of unexpectedly twisting punchlines and sharp turns of phrase.

This is the sort of night – more normally found at the Edinburgh Fringe – that showcases the best stand-up can be – an inventive, playful one-off, taking a simple gag stupidly far, but with creative flair. The only misstep, really, was The Beatles – a booking that must have been made for the gag of having that name on the bill. But playing five or six cover versions, perfectly straight, meant this tribute act outstayed their welcome on a comedy bill, as the increasingly apathetic call-and-response sections attested.

But that was the only hiccup in a fantastic, never-to-be-repeated night. To paraphrase a joke of Doody’s, had Jevin been here, he would surely have been made up.

Review date: 8 Mar 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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