JACK DEE ON TOUR!
The Jack Dee Gig Review Thing..
"How has being a parent changed me? Well I've now got sick marks
down my back, as well as my front..."
What's the best way of describing Jack Dee to all you non-UK readers?
It's a difficult one. Comedians tend not to travel across national
or cultural boundaries too well for the most part. I personally think
that you can't get too much of the fellow. Most UK readers, with a
liking for humour with a sarcastic or deadpan approach will strongly
agree with me. Still, I'm going to give this my best shot, right
here, right now. Well, over the following paragraphs at least?
So what is a 'Jack Dee'? He started life as naturally sarcastic and
went into catering, with the ambition of becoming a restaurant
manager, a suitable alternative occupation to comedy for the naturally
sarcastic in my view. There, he acquired his deadpan expression, and
love of sharp suits as a 'stage costume'. He stumbled into comedy at
an open mike night at The Comedy Store in London, almost by
accident. When his first joke died on stage, he turned it against
himself, and the audience laughed, just a little.
Jack was spotted even at this early stage, and encouraged to carry on.
Pretty soon he was getting proper paying gigs nationwide, and a bit
later than that, his own television series. He hasn't really looked
back from there, getting a better tele show on BBC 1, and even the odd
non-comedy straight acting role.
"Most of it (Silent Witness) was shot in a real prison, with real
inmates looking on. Invariably, a good take would be spoilt by some
nutter shouting an obscenity half-way through."
Anyway, as Jack has been quite a fixture on the glass fronted box,
he's not had the opportunity to tour and take his act on stage since
1998. It was Nicky who was alert in spotting the tour dates, which
took in a single night at Northampton on the 1st November. Being the
thoughtful person that she is, on the lookout for an early birthday
present for me, she moved quickly to get the last two tickets on
sale. This gig had sold out on the first day it was advertised!
Drizzle forward to the first of November, and we take our seats at
the Derngate Theatre, Northampton. In fact, we take them up to
quite a high place in the uppermost box on the right hand side of the
stage, where it turns out, we are perfectly placed to get a bird-
crap view of the top of Jack Dee's unnaturally monocultured and
The Derngate? Well it's a place where people try to sell you loads of
very expensive stuff, before they let you in the theatre part.
Including the show programmes, which at 6 UKP a go, are intended to
give all the proceeds to charity. Very wealthy people's charities
quite probably.. (See, he's got me doing it now!) Our lofty seat is
quite a good place to catch the show, with the one slight
reservation as to some of the acoustic quality, where we sometimes
lose Jack when his voice goes down low. This does not affect our
overall enjoyment too much though.
Audience packing the house, the lights dim, and he's on stage!
Like all stand-up's in a strange town, he opens with a few
common observations on the neighbourhood. He's really
thinking "What a characterless dump they've stuck me in tonight,
I need to sack my agent!" And he'd be right.
One specifically for this locale, so he says, that "New prams for
single mothers" are the main local charity to benefit from the
very expensive programmes. Might have a point there?
The first half wanders all over an eclectic range of topics.
We get a little bit of inside dirt on 'Celebrity Big Brother', in which
Jack managed to win. Chris Eubank (ludicrous pugilist - go and look
it up!) considered himself constantly 'on camera', and the rest of
the household would find him frequently talking to mirrors, as if
there were hidden cameras waiting there?
There was a good bit about those personal computers under the
Monopolysoft brand. You even knew what he was talking about, without
any brand names or specific anti-Microsoft ranting.
For example - "Computers are trying to take over our lives, they
want to rule us. It comes up with 'Press Enter' on the screen.. Well,
I paid for it, I own you, So YOU can bloody well hit enter yourself!"
Or you really know it's Microsoft when:- "It tells me it's 'Improperly
shut down'. Well it wasn't my fault! YOU froze up on me when I
was happily tapping away and minding my own business!"
And as for the internet. "You've got bedrooms of teenagers across
the nation, wanking like crazed safari park monkeys!"
There is lots more in that vein and the interval comes as a curious
relief to my laughter strained sides.
I might mention that this review can only give a partial flavour of the
Jack Dee experience. A large part of his impact comes from the
sarcastic intonation of his act, an art at which he is a master. Whilst
it still isn't technically possible to embed a video clip in the
middle of an article (maybe the next version of the Alive!
shell, eh?) I'm also unable to adequately describe his sarcastic
body language. So what you are reading about and are able to see for
yourself, is about a third of the whole.
People are given the chance to write their own observations in a
couple of notebooks left on the stage during the interval. This
mutation of a realtime article will come into its own right at the
end of the show.
The second half includes more 'personal' material, that a lesser
comedian might well back nervously away from. Such as the story of a
proctological examination, where Jack was assailed by the
understandable pre-session paranoia that the person carrying out this
procedure might not actually be the doctor, whose name was on the
door. "For all I knew, I could have been buggered by the Xerox
There was also a fair bit on the ageing process. "I now know what old
people are on about when they complain about sitting in a draught.
It's happening to me now, I'm getting injured by air!"
The show seems to have fallen into a pattern, easy to follow, when
almost at the end, the notebooks in which people donated their mid-
act observations reappear. This adds a freshly sharpened edge to the
concluding part of the act.
One such entry begins with:-
"Will you tell the girl in the middle of the third row to stop flicking
To which the answer was "She's your girlfriend, so you tell her!"
And so on, culminating in one such scribbling from a previous gig,
which he allegedly read out, without checking first on that occasion,
"Happy sixteenth birthday Michelle, you lost your cherry (virginity)
last week, cool stuff!" - Her friends.
Followed immediately on the next page by:-
"Happy sixteenth birthday Michelle, love mum and dad." (!!)
And at that point, this was a good place to end the gig!
Well I wasn't disappointed at all by this concentrated dose of Dee-
mania. His television exposures tend to be shorter, and missing some
of the more colourful expressions of the english language, so this
rare live appearance was very enjoyable. As a good night out, it
hit the spot for both of us, with Nicky possibly laughing even more
than I did.
Conclusion:- Live comedy rules! Jack Dee is recommended with the CiH
five star endorsement, but it's all sold out by now, sorry!
CiH for Alive! Mag, Nov' 01