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Josh Howie: Gran Slam
Gran Slam is based on the time that Josh lived with his mother’s mother who is 84 years old. He did this until recently for a four year period with his wife, who was pregnant for part of the time. Being cash-strapped, and wanting to save up money for their wedding, a deposit for their flat and with an endless supply of liquorice allsorts, Josh thought it was the perfect arrangement…. It wasn’t!
He was under the impression that he was the perfect grandchild and in his Grandma’s eyes could do no wrong and she would appreciate his company.
This idyllic viewpoint of their relationship was blown apart when, after a few weeks of moving in, his Grandma told his wife: 'You know, Joshua really reminds me of my brother.', then she sadly shook her head. 'I never liked my brother.'
Josh Howie: Gran Slam
This may seem like an odd complaint for a comedy show: but there are just far too many jokes in Josh Howie’s tale of living with his 86-year-old grandmother.
No believer of ‘less is more’, Howie has made his hour so dense with punchlines, that anything of interest is swamped under an avalanche of torturous wordplay and easy jibes about pensioners being incontinent, forgetful, slow-moving, technologically inept or just generally gross.
Quantity most definitely overwhelms quality here. He won’t use an adjective when he can use a comic metaphor, preferably with two or three taglines, too. While there are some excellent gags amid all this, there are also plenty of weak puns that bring nothing to the party. Meanwhile the subtle jokes that take a couple of beats to figure out aren’t always offered that time to sink in amid the relentless march of the asides, leaving the audience stranded.
But the main problem with such a intensity of quips, all told with a nervy, nerdy delivery, is that that story struggles to get told – as every bit of information is immediately undermined by a glib comment: was it true or just a set-up? After an hour hearing all about pensioner Angela, you won’t feel you know her at all – she’s just a dehumanised, archetypal doddery old dear who acts oddly.
Piecemeal, we learn that Howie and his wife lived under her North London roof while they saved up for a deposit on a house. It was only supposed to last a year – in fact it lasted more than four. Now there’s dedicated research for a Fringe show.
There are lots of heartless jokes about this Jewish matriarch’s stubborn refusal to kick the bucket, everyday quirks such as bulk-buying toilet paper, and unpleasant situations such as finding her pubic hair in the shower. He also gets some tenuously linked material about masturbation, paedophilia and the Israel-Palestine situation into the mix, too.
But I’d wish he’d take a leaf from Angela’s book and slow down a little: concentrate only on the brilliant jokes, of which there are certainly enough, and flesh out his gran so she comes across as a real person we care about rather than just a foil for his comedy.
|Date of live review: Sunday 22nd Aug, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
I saw a preview of this last week, along with a mere dozen or so other people. Happily, this did not distract, partly because the audience were determined to have a good time, partly because the warm-up had done what it says on the tin, and partly because Josh was very good. The show clearly needs more work and, in particular, preparation: Josh came on stage with a bundle of alarmingly closely-typed sheets, to which he did have to refer on occasion, but perhaps more important was that on occasion he dropped his voice at the punchline with the result that it was either lost or almost lost. I am sure he will overcome this with time. The subject matter is unusual, but there is some comedy gold here.