Milton Jones: Caught In A Rabbit's Headlights
Show type: Tour
Former Perrier Best Newcomer and Nominee, Time Out Award winner 2003, a Comedy Store regular whose had six series on Radio 4 - in a show.
He uses stories, hats and words like conkers, cooking them in the vinegar of his mind, and then bringing them down on the heads of his audience without warning
Such is fame. In London, tonight Ricky Gervais is entertaining 3,000 people. In Oxford, Milton Jones plays to about 30. Were audiences based on how many punchlines you’d get for your pound, the figures would surely be reversed.
Jones has more great lines than Lindsay Lohan’s coke dealer, more gags than an S&M convention, more… well, you get the idea. It’s just one tight joke after another, for 90 solid minutes, plus interval.
Conventional wisdom is that an audience would tire of a relentless stream of disjointed one-liners, even one-liners as exquisite as these. So Jones makes some attempt to vary the pace, trying out such characters as the shell-shocked war veteran or a sinister Roman Abromovich-style oligarch, or by reading extracts from imagined historical diaries, using little more than a length of expandable trellis to set the scene. But these are only flimsy cover for the unrelenting stream of lean, ridiculous jokes.
Initially, he does have a bit of difficulty mustering up at atmosphere. The rows of empty seats don’t help, nor does the fact that he comes at us cold – outside his normal working environment of the comedy club, with all the anticipation and atmosphere that entails. But it’s not long till Milton’s paradise is found, and he’s got everyone chuckling along, pushed into submission by the sheer quality of the writing.
Sometimes they’re puns – wordplay so inspired you’re never even temped to groan; sometimes it’s just silliness; sometimes, if you look really hard, there’s even a point to them. But the persona is that of an idiot savant, reinforced by an idiotic grin, a faraway gaze, the asylum-issue boiler suit and that half-demonic sighed chortle he emits to himself after some of the more deranged jokes.
Actually, he doesn’t even get to the end of many of the gags, instead they just tail off in … ellipsis. He trusts his audience to join those three little dots and get to the punchline themselves. He flatters the intelligence, and the fact you make that mental leap yourself means you laugh all the more. He may have one of the highest joke counts in the business, but probably the lowest proportion of gags that he actually completes.
This Welshman of many grandfathers lives up to his enviable reputation as a master of the brief, quotable joke; only, as usual, they come to fast for you ever to hope to memorise them. How he manages to commit the entire show to memory is anyone’s guess.
If you’ve seen him on the circuit, or heard his Radio 4 show, you will recognise some, maybe even much, of the work in this greatest hits show. But it doesn’t matter, each of these gags is like renewing your acquaintance with a friend you’d half forgotten, but still cherish.
There are very few comics as inventively silly, as magnificently funny and as successfully industrious as Jones – and this tour underlines that point. Lovers of top-quality comedy should be queuing round the block.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Oxford, September 27
Date of review: Sep 2007