Jack Dee 2012 tour

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It's fair to say Jack Dee’s reputation precedes him. He only need make sardonic reference to himself as ‘the friendly face of London’ here to keep spreading the sunshine, to get a laugh. ‘Believe it or not I went through a period when I was really quite morose...’ he tells us, to no one’s surprise.

It’s a grumpy old man act that probably suits him more now he’s in his fifties than when he started stand-up all those years ago – though, of course, it’s exaggerated for comic effect. He’s more someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly than an out-and-out grouch, though the cascade of irritants that seems to count as his life gives him plenty of reasons to be cheerless.

His listlessness extends to his delivery, too. Ironically, since he was the first host of Live At The Apollo, he is a world apart from the bouncy young things who fill our TV stand-up shows today. Almost motionless in his dapper suit (in a natty Pub Landlord burgundy) and loosened tie, he rumbles though his sizable list of pet peeves summoning up only the energy to raise a sneer or a watery, thin-lipped smile.

Some things are easy pickings: the new age healer doing some nonsense with an aura, the 9/11 conspiracy theories who’d truck no argument or the false cheeriness of food labelling. He doesn’t want to engage with this sort of an idiot, and has come up with a new app to avoid them online, that responds automatically to every tweet with a tired: ‘So what?’ It should be the title of the tour.

The electrician he called out to fix a dodgy light switch could clearly do no right – you almost feel sorry for him, he wasn’t as feckless as some – but still the way Dee picks apart their encounter is masterful. Even a trip to the Titanic museum gets his goat, as he’s denied the same experience as the youngsters.

Dee sometimes rests on his reputation and assumes that our expectation of his dour response is enough. And sometimes – when he complains sarcastically about his teenagers raiding the fridge, for example – he sounds like just like any other middle-aged dad. Yet his daughter’s attitude, so perfectly summed up in an anecdote about her trip to Glastonbury, can only be responded to with weary resignation, and longer stories such as this are more rewarding as he paints a fuller picture.

He uses his family experiences as a springboard to a routine about Jesus’s teenage years, which has been done plenty of times before with the same punchlines (possibly first by the great, forgotten John Dowie, though I can’t be sure).

The feckless offspring, the neighbour he can’t get on with... his stand-up has some familiar traits from Lead Balloon, the sitcom that’s kept him off the road these past six years. Though he’s been away, he hasn’t entirely rested on his laurels, and there are a couple of segment here that nudge his stand-up into new directions. His encounter with a lost Japanese tourist play with racism - or rather the fear of it – and is intriguingly ambiguous, even if it needs a stronger payoff.

More surprising yet is his encore, when he brings out an undersized guitar and demonstrates a hitherto hidden talent for blues music, as sings his way though some of the dead-end jobs he had before comedy. You could almost call it jaunty. Well, at least by comparison.... if this is his midlife crisis, it’s a welcome one.

Review date: 9 Oct 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Cambridge Corn Exchange

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