sun 14/08/2022

Jimmy Carr, Orchard Theatre, Dartford | reviews, news & interviews

Jimmy Carr, Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Jimmy Carr, Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Rude, crude and frequently funny - but lacking in warmth of human kindness

Jimmy Carr, a comedian who has more than once got into hot water over jokes that some find offensive, does a very strange thing for the encore of his latest show, Laughter Therapy - he gives a lecture cum homily on the limits of offensiveness, and how anything is permissible if the audience allows it. “I know my jokes are cruel and brutal and unacceptable,” he says. “But they have only one purpose - to make you laugh.”

That’s rich, that is. Carr, a Cambridge graduate and a very bright bloke, can’t get himself off the hook that easily, even with this show’s disclaimer, “Not to be taken if you have a sensitive disposition”. He has made his name in comedy by off-colour jokes and should at least take responsibility for his humour and the riches it has brought him. To be fair, he’s one of the hardest-working comics in the business as, in addition to his multifarious television appearances (to which must be added the upcoming 10 O’Clock Live on Channel 4), he tours almost non-stop with a new (well, mostly new) show each year. But however gross some of his material is, he’s not groundbreaking - the film The Aristocrats was far cruder - and comics such as Jethro and Roy “Chubby” Brown can outdo him on racism and misogyny, while Frankie Boyle is currently taking the plaudits as comedy’s Mr Offensive.

Actually, I was offended rather less than I had anticipated in this show as the disabled and mentally ill don’t figure greatly (call me humourless, but “jokes” on those subjects aren’t my cup of tea) and, while liberally accusing Catholic priests and the Pope of being paedophiles, he makes one (positive) reference to Islam - “I’m not stupid.” Any offence I take is in the wearying repetition of gags that rely on the audience finding non-consensual sex funny: “I’ve invented a new rape alarm. When it goes off it plays the Benny Hill theme - I like to think it makes it more of a caper.”

Now that is a typically well-crafted Carr gag; an innocent set-up followed by a line taking the subject in an unexpected, almost surreal direction. But also typically Carr in that the payoff relies on you ignoring the fact that it actually still is about rape. There are plenty more clever but crude jokes - about paedophiles, anal sex, ejaculating in women’s mouths (always women’s mouths, never men’s, because, as Carr is strangely keen to tell the Dartford audience more than once, he’s not gay) - and many of them are indeed funny, although the level of misogyny is striking. 

That’s not to say all of Carr’s humour is even borderline offensive; much of it is simple punning or witty wordplay - “The first few weeks at WeightWatchers you’re just finding your feet.” But then he goes and ruins it with an unbelievably nasty bit of racism: “If only Africa had more mosquito nets [pause] then we could save millions of mosquitoes from dying of Aids.”

The show lasts two-and-a-half hours - longer last night because of constant heckling, which merited some terrific putdowns, although Carr was momentarily  discombobulated when one young bloke asked if he gave his girlfriend Rohypnol - and is jam-packed with gags, as much of Carr’s material is of the quickfire set-up/payoff variety.

That could easily pall, but he mixes it up with some splendidly drawn cartoon versions of his jokes projected on to a large onstage screen and some audience participation, including a section on how to master British accents, which has a cracker of a joke about how to imitate Geordies (just say the word “rollercoaster”), but which relies on lazy stereotyping for the rest of the laughs. The segments where he “interviews” a member of the audience on stage, or recruits someone to act as his straight man raise a few laughs but slow the show down.

Carr is undoubtedly a wickedly funny comic and this slickly presented show is frequently witty, but what’s missing is any sense of warmth or irony.

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