This was a gig that was supposed to happen on October 6, but had to be postponed until now for (unspecified) “medical reasons”.
Every generation throws up comedic styles and practitioners. Jimmy Carr is as close as you’ll get to a latter-day Bob Monkhouse. He’s a man who for many is not immediately loveable, but you simply cannot ignore the sheer force of will and artifice that goes into creating his act. Here is a student and technician of the art and the craft of comedy, and who has talked about it a fair bit in things like his rather (perhaps to some surprisingly so) touching Desert Island Discs.
There’s an art to telling an offensive gag, and like Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr is a master of it. In the past he has discussed the fine calibration involved: how the first reaction should be the intake of breath, the “Did he really say that?” moment, before the laugh arrives, almost as if you’ve given yourself permission to laugh at the transgression, but are still really wondering if you even should.
You’ll be pleased to know that this is pretty much how things pan out tonight, in the Princess Alexandra Auditorium, which is a gorgeous venue. There are two shows tonight, and I‘m at the first, at 6pm. In fact, it’s a bit of a rush from work, and I only just manage to make it. So much so that I contacted the venue to switch tickets for the 9pm show. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that they’d been incredibly accommodating and done it until after I’d actually watched the show, but I didn’t want to take advantage and sneak into both when they’d been so good. The only downside of this is that the early show was full of people like me, who’d more than likely rushed from work. I suspect the later show show have been a bit more relaxed, lairy, and certainly more lubricated, even on a Monday. But it is Yarm, after all.
Carr is no stranger to Teesside, having played the Town Hall in Middlesbrough a fair bit, so he certainly knows the local audience, and throws in lots of nice initial sparring gags, firstly about being in a school, and secondly about being in “the posh part of Middlesbrough”. But it doesn’t take long for him to properly hit stride. He plays for around 90 minutes or so, without an interval. He really is a machine, firing one liners in a pretty much continuous stream. He does bounce off the audience a little to do this, picking out a wide variety of people including a ginger guy, a couple who are planning to get married, an Australian, and a couple of chemical process workers: it is Teesside, you can’t move for them.
There is a theme of sorts, which is jokes about terrible things, including the things that can and do befall people. One section involves Carr talking about a show he did for a hospice in Montreal during the Just For Laughs festival one year, and how, even as ill as these people were, all they wanted to do was laugh for a while. But, as he says, they’re just jokes about terrible things, not the things themselves, and to laugh in the face of things like that is a way to face them. It’s certainly a point of view, and one the audience are willing to buy into. I certainly am. He also talks in a slightly conspiratorial way about the things we laugh at here, because we’re all kind of electing to be part of a little huddle who want to laugh at this stuff, here and now. Being a bit of a scholar of comedy, he’s obviously aware of the power of forming a cohesion with the audience.
He finishes with one last bit of participation from the audience, going though messages and social media stuff they’ve sent to him in the usual fashion for his shows now, and there are some great ones in there (no spoilers!). There’s no embellishment, just the man and the gags. And no encore. He does his turn and is off. It’s crisp, business-like and efficient, which is probably another hook to hang that Monkhouse comparison on. But most important of all, it’s funny.