Ivor Dembina – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett © Steph Bor

Ivor Dembina – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2000

Review by Steve Bennett

Ivor Dembina is probably best known to London comedy-goers for the well-established gigs he hosts at Brixton and Hampstead, where he trots out the same gags and far-from catchy catchphrases week-in, week-out. But his regulars tolerate this unambitious approach because his longevity on the circuit has earned him the status of ‘elder statesman’ – and elder statesmen must always be humoured.

But on the rare occasions he does perform a full, focussed set to fresh ears, those old standards come into their own. Short, effective and very Jewish, the self-deprecating puns and put-downs are obviously influenced by the Catskills comics of a bygone age, via the insecurities of Woody Allen.

There is a corniness to some of them, and the whole set leans heavily on the semitic stereotypes that have endured so well down the years, but there’s no denying that the material does work. And if you don’t like one joke, try the one that immediately follows. To use one of those stereotypes as an analogy, Dembina determined to make a sale, however much cajoling and charming he has to do to get it.

Once he’s won the audience’s trust, he eases back on the gag count to talk more honestly about things personal to him: his fetishistic sexual tendancies and the human impact of Israel’s policy in the occupied territories (which he has visited – and performed in - as a peace observer). You couldn’t ask for more diverse topics.

But they’re subjects he speaks sagely about, from experience and from the heart, which what keeps the audience interested. It’s almost a shame when he has to puncture the tales with something as sordid as jokes, which are often bolted on almost as an afterthought, rather than emerging naturally from the story.

But you do have to get your laughs somewhere, and Dembina gets the job done. Which might come as a surprise to those Brixton regulars…

Review date: 4 Aug 2000
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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