Jim Smallman Is... Boy Next Door Gone Wrong
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Best Debut Show Nominee - Leicester Comedy Festival Awards 2009. Jim is an amusingly tattooed, manic depressive former child prodigy with tall tales of his wrongness coming out of his ears. And yet he used to be so nice ... what on earth happened? This is his story so far.
From his debut solo show, it’s obvious that Jim Smallman is a natural born compere. He has such an easy rapport with the audience and tells his tales with a fluidity and energy that keeps everyone attentive. He could talk the hind legs off a donkey, but you suspect the donkey wouldn’t really mind.
Sensibly enough, he’s mined his own life to date for this first hour: his bipolar disorder, his mental breakdown, his divorce in his mid-twenties and how comedy saved him from what sounds like a depressing life.
But, despite appearances, Smallman’s comedy isn’t bleak. He’s an instinctive storyteller who draws out the humour in every anecdote. He admits many of his stories peter out with no proper ending – and as a show Boy Next Door Gone Wrong could certainly do with more structure – but the yarns are all reliably amusing.
On the comedy spectrum, he falls somewhere between Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman. He’s got Skinner’s gift of the gab, plus a slightly laddish undercurrent. Porn features a bit, as do drugs – even if they are more often antidepressants than class As. But he’s also got Gorman’s enthusiasm for travelogue-style storytelling.
The tales that stick to real life always fare better than those he’s extrapolated into joke territory, when you can often see exactly how his thinking will pan out. The no-entry tattoo and the overdosing on Prozac routines are particularly predictable. But left to his own anecdotes, Smallman proves bright and entertaining company, even if a remarkably high proportion of his yarns seem to take place at other gigs, which might – quite wrongly – lead you to think this is the only experience he has to draw upon.
In front of a partisan home-town crowd at Leicester, Smallman does especially well, although his silver-tongued banter is likely to charm most audiences. To work as a show, this debut offering needs more work – especially a narrative or thematic theme – before it gets to Edinburgh, but he’s already got the pathos-tinged climax to build towards, and the delivery skills to brighten any content.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2009