Jordan Brookes: This Is Just What Happens | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Jordan Brookes: This Is Just What Happens

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Covid made Jordan Brookes the longest-reigning Edinburgh Comedy Award winner. But in throwing the usual rhythms of the comedy cycle out of whack, it also meant he premiered the follow-up to that triumphant show in London this spring before making his return to the Fringe.

Back in Edinburgh, he’s keen to dispel his reputation as a challenging, sometimes confronting comedian and prove that he is a Nice Guy. In that spirit, his gushingly positive crowd work looks like a blatant bid for the mainstream – although it soon becomes apparent that it’s primarily an over-correction for being called ‘slimeball’ three years ago, a comment that has gnawed at his mind ever since.

That devastating character analysis has triggered a more personal, confessional hour of stand-up, in which he picks at the scabs of insecurities about his looks, his sexual history and his relationships. A serial monogamist, he’s especially hilarious on his attempts to sow wild oats with no-strings sex at the belated age of 33. 

As he explores these issues, it becomes obvious his veneer of respectability and amiability is paper-thin. He plays up his vulnerabilities, even professing to be a victim, but reality is much more complex than that. He’s acknowledging his flaws without addressing them, which leaves a moral limbo at the core of this show.

He enjoys leaving this unresolved, just as he takes delight in playing with the room and its shifting energy, especially when it gets awkward. And in a subversive twist on the ubiquitous messaging of ‘be kind’ and the primacy of mental health, he jokes about how any behaviour can be excused if you say you’re doing it ‘for your anxiety’ these days. Indeed, he’s doing this whole show to tackle his anxiety over that ‘slimeball’ comment. Whether it’s the right course of action is, however, definitely moot.

It’s not just his words and ideas that gently discombobulate an audience. His mesmerising, spindly physicality is funny in both the amusing and peculiar sense of the adjective, another reminder that he’s not quite like everybody else.

Even though This Is Just What Happens is Brookes’ most accessible hour, you wouldn’t call it exactly mainstream and not just for that ambiguity. Odd routines about Captain Tom or his inappropriate dream about his uncle definitely put it into the offbeat camp. I was sad to see that he’d dropped the most straightfowardly funny routine from the London run – about people’s reactions to seeing a ghost – but in this tighter slot, it does little to serve the main themes. 

What remains is an ambiguous hour of unresolved self-analysis, funny for the confessions he makes and thought-provoking for the ones he doesn’t. Impressive stuff.

Jordan Brookes: This Is Just What Happens

Review date: 9 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Monkey Barrel Comedy Club

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