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Alive 4

                      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
textured scalp.

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  
her hair?"

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,
gets mentioned.

"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

Alive 4