Sol Bernstein: Almost Alive II

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Solly Bernstein is not so much a character as a simple façade. Steve Jameson's persona as an old-school Jewish Catskills comic is just an excuse to churn out those bada-bing, bada-boom jokes, nothing more, nothing less.

On this basic level, it works very well. If you're after an exploration into what makes this character tick, you will be disappointed, for this is no cutting-edge Edinburgh comedy but simply an excuse to hear the old gags in the old style. A tribute act, almost.

And very convincing it is, too, Bernstein puts up a wall of fast-paced Borscht Belt banter, slipping in the odd Yiddish phrase for extra authenticity and keeping the audience alert. Much of it is dedicated to the only two fellow Jews in the audience, who he quickly honed in on.

As for the jokes, they're a combination of bad puns and punchlines flagged so far off they might as well be in semaphore. But ­ get outta here - that's all part of the silly, music hall fun.

Amid all these gags about Fishermen's Friends and "Birth? I wasn't there for the conception", the octogenarian Bernstein fabricates his life story. Zelig-like, he claims to have been close showbiz pals with everyone from JFK to Salvador Dali, Winston Chruchill to Elvis. His catchphrase, urging the men to put on a tie, was supposedly given to him by Hitler.

Actually, some of the gags are much better than the persona suggests. And in the final segment of the show, split into quarters by bizarre insets about his sponsor, Bernstein really lets fly, abandoning the formulaic one-liners for a much more impassioned rant. Here he harnesses huge amounts of energy to great effect as he rails against all manner or minor injustices, most especially Tony Blackburn (of whom, incidentally, he does a faultless impersonation).

This is easily the strongest section of the set, even if you fear the exertion may do the 'old fella' in, meaning the entertaining, if undemanding, hour ends on a definite high.

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

Today's comedy-on demand picks


From an empty Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, Carl Hutchinson introduces the venue's first live show since the lockdown, featuring an array of North East talent, including Steffen Peddie, Nicola Mantalios-Thompson, Lauren Pattison and Gavin Webster, plus an interview with Chris Ramsey.

Click for more suggestions
... including a new stand-up special from Hannibal Buress and the return of Nighty Night to iPlayer.

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.