sun 15/12/2019

Jack Dee, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage review - now he really is a grumpy old man | reviews, news & interviews

Jack Dee, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage review - now he really is a grumpy old man

Jack Dee, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage review - now he really is a grumpy old man

Observational comic has grown into his stage persona

Jack Dee is back on the road for the first time in six yearsAemen Sukkar

Jack Dee has made a career out of being a grumpy old man, even though he started on the comedy circuit in 1986 when he was 25. Back then, his dour, seen-it-all-and-not-impressed material was wonderfully at at odds not just with his age but also the same generation of alternative comics and their high-energy political sets.But now, at the age of 58, he has grown into the stage persona, and his unsmiling, deadpan shtick suits him perfectly.

He dismisses the audience's welcoming applause with a sarcastic “Thanks anyway” but the more he disses them and their town, the more they lap it up. Of course – this is Dee's trademark approach and they love it, knowing that everything he says is loaded with deeply sardonic humour. The show's title, Off the Telly, reflects that in the six years since he last toured, he has been mostly acting in sitcoms as, you've guessed it, a series of laconic, grumpy characters. It also reflects, rather amusingly, that Bad Move, a sitcom he co-wrote and starred in, was axed by ITV after two series.

Among the observational comedy and daft inventions there are moments when he skates on thin ice, saying how he hates to do charity gigs for illnesses he will never have – “the NHS is actually funded by comedians” – or telling how he laid into national treasure Mary Berry to get out of doing Celebrity Bake Off on the BBC. For a moment I thought he was doing some rather dated material (The Great British Bake Off moved to Channel 4 in 2017, with Prue Leith replacing Berry as Paul Hollywood's co-judge), But no, for good measure, he lays into them as well.

He talks about his home life and the joys of him and his wife being empty-nesters, so that at least now when he goes to the fridge his beer is still there. He tells stories about buying a new mattress for their bed and the weird stains that were embarrassingly revealed underneath the old one when the delivery men took it away, and of how seeing people eating smashed avocado riles him. The rot set in about our national diet with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he says, and his “goat spunk butter”.

There are more digs at celebrities – he suggests some character names for Phoebe Waller-Bridge's new Bond movie, and interestingly Michael Portillo is given a rather easier time of it for his dress sense than teenage climate protester Greta Thunberg is for trying to save the world. Brexit gets a mention and there's some decent political material, complete with impersonations and stinging descriptions.

Few comics could get away with being so relentlessly droll and unanimated, but Dee just about pulls it off. I must confess, though, by the end of this two-hour show my interest in hearing what he had to say had waned.

  • Jack Dee is touring until 14 June 2020
He talks about his home life and the joys of him and his wife being empty-nesters

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters