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Sunday, 24 May 2015

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Divine Misery

COMEDY REVIEW: Jack Dee, Kendal Brewery Arts Centre, May 27


ANYONE can have a good old rant about the things that annoy them - it’s what us Brits do best.

Anger and misery is the basis of many a stand-up routine, and while often you may agree with the sentiment, funny it ain’t.

Case in point: BBC’s Grumpy Old Men series. I refuse to believe anyone has ever laughed themselves hoarse at the forced ‘observations’ these washed-up old crones tend to spew out.

If that show could make one dream signing, it would have to be Jack Dee - a man who has made a career out of being a miserable git.
His deadpan delivery coupled with a face like a bankrupt pug are enough to win over most audiences, but you still have to have the material to match.

This headline slot at the Freerange Comedy Festival, in Kendal, on Sunday, was billed as a ‘Work in Progress’ show, as Dee tried out a new set ahead of a nationwide tour later in the year.

Playing to a packed out venue, the veteran comic showed why he is still ranked up there with the best in the business despite only fleeting appearances on stage over the past decade.

The set was timed to perfection, slick delivery, and you got the sense that the only thing he was trying to gauge was how far he could push the boundaries of taste.
A Bernard Manning-esque impression of a Japanese family asking for directions was subtly used to make a mockery of people defending casual racism, and perhaps the set highlight was a joke about the distasteful TV recreation of the Titanic voyage to mark the centenary of its sinking - and whether we’d do something similar to mark the anniversary of the Lockerbie bombings.

Some of his observations were nothing new, but whereas McIntyre would say, ‘what’s that all about?’, Dee actually has a joke to back it up: “They say that you should only drink 21 units of alcohol a week. Everyone knows that even though the speed limit on the motorway is 70 mph, but you can get away with 80 or 90. Well I have the same approach to alcohol... about 80 or 90.”

Often, the last thing you want to see is a comedian whip out a guitar - for me, it usually puts a dampener on the whole show. When Dee came back out for his encore with an acoustic slung round his neck, I feared the worst. But he never pretended he could sing, didn’t make much of an effort to rhyme, just used it as an excuse to tell some quickfire jokes, culminating in his one moment of glorious satisfaction - outliving a ‘bag for life’: “It’s the small victories that count.”

A metaphor for this show in particular.



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