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Jeff Leach: Boyfriend Experience: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

Everyone loves a good redemption, so Jeff Leach’s conversion from drug-taking sex addict to (semi-)responsible boyfriend and stepfather should form the skeleton of a classic Edinburgh hour.

Unfortunately, this is an ending without a show, as the payoff is preceded by a jumble of uncomfortable crowd interaction and bad ideas, with all the narrative drive as a can of Alphabetti Spaghetti.

The trigger for Boyfriend Material is the documentary that ‘half-Russell Brand, half Johnny Knoxville’ Leach made for BBC Three, exploring his shallow quest for notches on the bedpost. It casts a long shadow over this show as there’s an unsaid assumption that we’re all aware of it, or have watched it, as he speaks a lot of the reaction and consequences without directly addressing what the programme was.

It seems that both the film, and his original actions, caused some distress to his family and those he slept with. ‘I felt like a supporting player in the Jeff Leach Story’ one of his conquests told him… and that still seems to be the way he goes through life still.

He needs things to go his way, unhappy when people don’t react the way he wants. More times than is comfortable, he takes issue with the audience for not laughing with him, or not answering his personal questions with the candour he demands. There’s an impish smile, but it’s clear he’s vexed. And how does he responds to the critics who don’t shower him with praise? By reading out their reviews out in a stupid, sarcastic voice like he’s eight years old.

In an over-long bit of pre-gig blether, he bangs on about this being a place of honesty, how he’s always going to be truthful, yadda, yadda, yadda… But it sounds like posturing, like much of his act: I don’t remember Richard Pryor making such a song and dance about this honesty – his just got with his stories and let the authenticity shine through.

Leach ever properly explains what he used to be like, pre-therapy, as he assumes we know from his TV show or just from the way he looks in his drainpipe jeans and sleeveless T-shirt and waistcoat; nor how he U-turned his life – it’s just enough to known that as he got older, he thought he should act more maturely. Yet these are the elements o the ‘journey’ he wants to take us on.

Not that ‘mature’ exactly springs to mind with some of his material. There’s a sketch here were he imagines sex with him as if it an actual theme park ride, a catalogue of easy double entendres which ends with him writhing around the stage in simulated bad sex that’s just embarrassing.

Elsewhere, a Texan Republican who shares his name is mocked, simply by reading out his manifesto which reveals – shock! he’s a far right-winger – rap lyrics are exposed for being unromantic, and Samantha Brick, who wrote the Daily Mail article about how she was never taken seriously because she was so beautiful is mocked for being ‘a fucking ugly woman’. These are fish in a barrel and he’s taking an AK-47 to them.

In his favour, Leach has got enthusiasm on stage, and some of his improvised banter with the audience, when he’s not so aggressive with them, does pay off – even if it does involve channelling the likes of Tony Law or Russell Kane; he never seems to be entirely his own man.

He’s got many of the stereotypical personality defects of the stand-up – a raging ego, parent issues, a need to be the centre of attention – but only rarely does he have the ability to convert this into solid comedy.

Review date: 4 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon

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