Jake Howie: Read My Lips | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett © Rebecca Need-Menear
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Jake Howie: Read My Lips

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Towards the end of his show, Kiwi Jake Howie takes a sideswipe at fellow comics, saying ‘at least I’m not another straight middle-class white guy up here talking about being awkward’. Which might be a valid point, were he not a gay middle-class white guy covering a lot of familiar ground.

Certainly the theatrical manner,  love of a dick joke and an occasional tendency to slip into a snippet of pop diva’s uplifting anthem is all from the camp playbook, but he excuses this stylistic familiarity as being his truth – if he’s had shared experiences from the same subculture, so be  it.

But more simply, he’s quite an unadventurous comedian, recounting scenarios both everyday and extreme with an exaggerated eye roll, always scrunching his elastic face into a look of incredulous puzzlement, but offering little by the way of punchlines..

The show is draped in fashionable liberal credentials. At one point he says, without much other context: ‘I hate injustice’, putting clear water between himself and all those comics calling for more injustice. He has an explicit message of body positivity too… only slightly undermined when he targets men in the audience for his assumption they have small dicks.

Sometimes he’s aware of his own hypocrisy and mocks it, self-depreciatingly: claiming to be spiritual but hating those who say they are spiritual, trying to get some brownie points for wanting to be vegan, even though he eats meat. And for a man promoting inclusive positivity, he can be judgmental about his targets, deserved or not.

Maybe we shouldn’t make so much of his grandstanding pronouncements, though, for they seem to be tagged on to offer some gravitas to a show that otherwise doesn’t pretend to have such lofty aims.

Howie is a cheery, personable host who’s  happy to shoot the breeze, offering the sort of light, jaunty, opinionated observation that plays all right over 10 minutes, but really starts to expose its shortcomings over 60.

There are jokes about sex faces, about having a racist grandmother, about posh kids on ‘Gap Yahs’ – topics that are as well-trodden as Bangkok’s Khao San Road. ‘Anal bleaching!’ the 33-year-old chirrups. ‘That’s a thing!’ Though why he’s so incredulous is a mystery, since comics have been talking about it for decades. 

A couple of routines promise something more. The revelation that he was raised as a Scientologist certainly makes the room sit up, but we don’t get much first-hand insight.

There are a couple of missed shots on topicality. On the Russian nerve agent attack, the best he can manage for a long set-up is that ‘novochok’ sounds like an ice cream. On Brexit he just mimics a Leave voter whinging about ‘them’ coming over here, quipping that no one would want to come to the hope-free post-industrial towns of the North, which seems to miss the point of why those places voted the way they did, even if this routines entirely in keeping with Howie’s judgemental nature.

The bitchiness has some appeal, and time in Howie’s company is mostly enjoyable, but with so many Fringe comedians pouring heart and soul into their work, this debut is inconsequential. He likes Nikki Minaj as there’s no subtext to her raps. On that level, at least, Howie is emulating his heroine. For there’s nothing nuanced here.

Review date: 4 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Just The Tonic at The Caves

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