Joe Bor: A Room With A Jew

Review by Steve Bennett at the Leicester Square Theatre

Every comedian needs an angle, and Joe Bor has clearly nailed his colours to the Jewish mast – even though he admits that having such a background doesn’t particularly define him. It has, however, worked as a marketing device, with a straw poll revealing a good three-quarters of tonight’s audience in London’s Leicester Square Theatre sharing his heritage.

Bor does, however, have a judgemental mum, and surely that’s the most Jewish thing going. ‘My mum’s a lecturer,’ he quips. ‘It’s not her job, it’s just what she does.’ 

That’s a fairly typical joke, wry rather than hilarious, as he outlines her disappointments about everything from his choice of career to his choice of sofa, with some side shots at her lack of modern savvy – confusing the word gif for gift in a text exchange, for instance. Her shadow looms large over his material.

But Bor is defined more by being middle-class than he is by his cultural background, and he loves to slip into a posh accent, not dissimilar to his adventurer alter-ego Jasper Cromwell Jones. The content is typically self-effacing stuff about how he finds himself exclaiming something that reeks of privilege, or describing how he cannot throw himself into a laddish stag do.

They are relatable stories and Bor can write a serviceable gag, but this doesn’t really amount to a show. His ever-present mum wishes he could be more like Michael McIntyre, but Bor doesn’t have the insight for observations that cast new light on common behaviour. Instead, he sticks to familiar commentary on familiar themes. For example on becoming a new dad, he notes that his house smells of shit, while he’s ironically dismissive of his wife’s labour ordeal. So far, so familiar.

Then there’s a well-flagged ‘topical’ material: one-liners that might be hard-pressed to get on to Radio 4 Extra’s open-access Newsjack, and based on stories that are more than a year old. This random section adds to the feeling he’s scraped together all the material he’s got to create a show, not that he was driven by any great purpose. That feeling is reinforced by the fact he wraps up in under 45 minutes, including a plea for ‘any questions’ and a reading of Philip Larkin’s poem about parenthood, This Be The Verse.

So amiable though he is, this is a show that is decidedly lightweight, suffering a paucity of inspiration and direction. There are a few recurring motifs, such as showing various caricatures of himself he’s had drawn around the world, but it’s no substitute for substance. With so many solo comedy shows to choose from, this competent but unremarkable and inconsequential offering struggles to find a place.

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Published: 26 Apr 2018

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