Jason Cook: My Confessions
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
You should normally prepare for anything when razor-sharp Geordie Jason Cook takes to the stage. But this Fringe, Jason has gone one step further and set himself the ultimate comedian's challenge - to perform a show without embellishment, exaggeration or poetic licence. A show that's 100% true.
Previously compelled by the hen party and office crowd to pepper his storytelling with knob gags in order to meet their desired filth quota, every single word in Jason's new show is fact.
A collection of 'confessions', Jason examines his own misdeeds and inadequacies, from the stupidly hilarious to the deeply moving.
The last ten minutes of Jason Cook’s accomplished solo debut is surely the most raw, emotive and tear-jerking stand-up you’ll see on the Fringe.
As he talks with almost uncomfortable honesty about his father, his eyes redden as he chokes back genuine tears. And he’s certainly not the only fighting that impulse. This is powerful, visceral comedy that grabs your feelings and wrenches them from one direction to another.
Yet through this overwhelming tide of sentiment, he still makes you laugh. The intensity and vulnerability of the performance leaves him, and the audience, drained. You want to curse him for putting you through the emotional mill, but are filled with love, joy and guilt, too. It is, in the best sense of the word, a tough gig – and we’re all the better for going through it.
We start a long way from this fragile point. Cook, disillusioned with shouting at rowdy, drunken idiots on the corporate club circuit, has decided he wants a show of pure honesty to prove his artistic credentials. So he has decided to make ten confessions, all of them true. The first is that his girlfriend cuts his hair, the second that she’s not a qualified hairdresser. I did say it was a long way from that powerful finale, and, yes, it’s a self-deprecating ‘look at my silly hair’ putdown.
It’s a gentle introduction to himself, creating an image that gradually builds layer upon layer as the show gets better and better. We learn of his love of practical jokes – instigating, not receiving, as with most ‘pranksters’, of his childhood, of his relationship. Staples of stand-up, but told with good humour and effective charm.
Cook – a Manchester-based Geordie who’s previously been in Edinburgh as half the spoof German techno band Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus – also reveals that he’s got obsessive-compulsive order, and invites us to laugh at his ridiculous behaviour. It all sets him up as juvenile man who has to make a joke out of everything. However, there are surprising, tragic aspects of his life that are beyond even his sense of humour.
So when the show reaches its powerful conclusion, yanking at the heartstrings, you empathise so much with your honest new friend, that it’s impossible to be moved. Emotionally manipulative? Maybe. But then isn’t that what all good art’s supposed to do?
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett