Miles Jupp: On I Bang | Review of the comedian's show about dealing with a brain tumour
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Miles Jupp: On I Bang

Review of the comedian's show about dealing with a brain tumour

Quintessentially middle-class and always old beyond his years, Miles Jupp is the epitome of the button-down Englishman. Yet here he is with a story that not only tests his stiff-upper-lippedness, but draws some of its power from the conflict between that aloof persona and the emotional experience he shares, far from the quotidian middle-class concerns that might normally obsess him.

In August 2021, the comedian was on the set of ITV drama Trigger Point when he became dizzy and disoriented, his vision blurring the world into confusing shards of colours. At the hospital, he was told he’d had a seizure, caused by a brain tumour growing unnoticed for years, that would require surgery to remove.

Like so many medical procedures, his treatment put him in a series of undignified positions which he skilfully mines for comedy – the amusing mental images of his degradation heightened because they are in contrast with the usual formality of his language and demeanour. 

On stage, he has the dress sense of a Tory backbencher – blue suit, understated tie, brown brogues – as he grumbles wryly, and at exaggerated, exasperated length, about the decline of WH Smith, his parents’ technical incompetence or his wife’s clutter, all from a place of absolute moral certainty. 

He’s always happy to play up to the fogeyish persona – albeit a liberal one, with sardonic jibes about Brexit or NHS underfunding peppering his story. That feeds into his deliciously grandiloquent prose, carefully choosing gold-plated vocabulary at just the right moment to assert the alleged superiority his expensive education has instilled. For example, when the blue screen is pulled around his hospital bed, it’s not to protect his dignity, but his ‘mystique’. And how many comedians can use words like ‘ingress’ and it still sound natural?

The florid writing is not always the shortest route to a laugh, and there are a couple of routines in the first half that probably go around too many houses, but the justified pomposity adds extra impact when the punchlines do come.

Jupp’s ornate phrase-making comes into its own in the second half, when it contrasts with the humiliations heaped upon him by his hospital treatment – a staple topic for middle-aged comedians for good reason, and which is exquisitely executed here. Certainly, Jupp’s stories of an MRSA swab or the removal of a catheter will bring tears to your eyes, either from laughter, or wincing, or both.

But underpinning all this are some very sombre thoughts. The fact he was living with timebomb in his skull that could have gone off at any time is a sobering reminder of the fragility of life which understandably preys on Jupp’s mind to this day.

As well as the elegant writing, Jupp uses his acting talents sparingly, but effectively – with one stand-out moment having him imagine the brain surgeons he feared he’d be operating on him, unnervingly over- or under-confident.

There is a sincerity in so much of what he has to say, from feeling blessed that he survived, to the warm praise for the compassion and professionalism of the health service staff – but at any sign of over-sentimentality, he swerves towards a joke. 

Yet for all the domestic grumbles about his wife, parents and five kids, it’s clear they are underpinned with love and a newfound appreciation of all he has. This is conveyed subtly in an engaging tale told with superior wit.

Miles Jupp: On I Bang tours to May 16. Dates

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Review date: 22 Jan 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Basingstoke Haymarket

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