Star rating: ****
Friday 16th January 2015
Having seen this show in it’s early preview, pre-tour format in July 2014 I was interested to see if and how it had changed now Jim Davidson had toured the country for 6 months and the show was in it’s final full month.
The first striking difference you notice between the shows is how much more exercised he is by the issue of immigration. There were frequent references to it, race in general and the north–south divide. You got the sense he was in nostalgic mood and missed the “good ole days” living in South London and how England was generally in times gone by. I think this sense of nostalgia is specific to his enjoyment of life and work a lot more in those far less-PC days and no, I don’t mean life before Paul Chowdhry, but life before political correctness got in the way of plain speaking and good old fashioned jokes. Something he and Paul Chowdhry share in common judging by PC’s current PC World tour. I have to agree with that too. PC can get in the way of honest, plain speaking, funny comedy.
Comedian Andrew Lawrence ran with this theme with a well publicised blog article and spat with a good number of his fellow comedians last October. I guess the transformation to a PC world has cost Jim Davidson his TV career to an extent, but that could equally be the result of the cyclical natural of showbusiness. Newer comedians break through and TV stations lap it up, as they always want to showcase the latest “new faces” so to speak!
The focus on this theme, which was not to the fore at all in his July show, may partly explain the absence of Black fans at the show. Apart from my own, I only saw one other in a near full theatre. That was a shame for what has been a very well received tour, especially with this being the last London date on the tour. There weren’t many London dates anyway and for someone of his stature there really should not have been an empty seat in the house. If it wasn’t for the baggage he unfortunately brings with him I’m sure it would have been full. For the record I do not think he is racist and he has the same right as every other comedian to air his concerns, opinions and mere jokes on the subject of race and immigration. Alas there’s this old and dated perception out there that is hard for him to shake off.
He questioned what would we do without immigrants as he’d “miss his late night curries … dining out with his 12 mates after a gig.”
That was interesting and perhaps a little bit made up. Whilst I don’t doubt he enjoys a late night curry, such is the life of a touring comedian, I find it stretches credulity somewhat to imagine Jim Davidson, a 61 year old man, going out on the town for a curry with 12 mates in tow. That sounds more like something a teenager or 20 something guy would do.
More to the point, it was interesting to note that this was the only thing he mentioned that he would miss. He didn’t say he’d miss immigrants driving the buses and trains, running these vital transport services, working as doctors and nurses, teachers, footballers, shop keepers, running off licences and petrol stations; the professionals working as accountants, lawyers, IT specialists and even musicians.
That said, he may well argue that he’s on stage purely to make people happy and laugh and therefore the point he chose to make, was done succinctly with good humour. He is not on stage to sell the benefits of immigration and if he feels there are few aside from selling curries, then that’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. Of course, he may well recognise the contribution immigrants have and continue to make in other spheres, but he did not articulate that. Missed opportunity perhaps? It’s why he finds himself battling this old perception certain quarters have of him.
However whilst on something of a political rant at times, the comedy was there in brilliant full force and that first and foremost is his job and it’s what he has done peerlessly for 40 years. This wasn’t an overtly political gig and it covered all manner of subjects in a 2 hour plus show. We had hilarious stories of his Scottish upbringing with his drunken father, life on Celebrity Big Brother 2014, which he won and after an annus horribilis (no, not a medical condition by the way) thanks to Operation Yew Tree, redeemed himself into the hearts of the nation.
The prime focus of the show, hence the title, was his involvement in Operation Yew Tree. He shed light on the police and journalists investigative practices and I guess thanks to knowing he was innocent all along it was relatively easy for him to make light off this afterwards and turn it into a money spinning tour, book and DVD. It’s great that he cleared his name and was able to make sense of what happened and continues to happen to other celebrities.
We heard some fascinating showbiz insider stories re his contemporaries such as Freddie Starr, who he rated hugely and was devasted to see the same sort of allegations against him break him and take away the mad cap, crazy performer Freddie was and should still be. We heard about his loathing of Jimmy Savile and Linda Nolan, plus funny anecdotes about Frank Carson and George Best.
The musical segment of the show had a lot of potential and I liked what he was trying to do, but it could have been developed some more. It fell a bit short of what it could have been as a means of full on audience participation.
This was a top quality show from start to finish from a British stand up comedy legend. He mixed cracking one liners and anecdotes, with politics and the law, in this very topical show focusing on his annus horribilis, 2013. Horribilis because it cost him £500k in lost earnings and potentially even more as it threatened to take away his liberty, reputation and career.
It would appear that Jim’s annus was ‘mirabilis’ in 2014 thanks to his Celebrity Big Brother victory, his book, DVD and tour, which encompassed his first Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This will doubtless have gone some considerable way to making up for lost earnings and any reputational damage he could have suffered.
Fans will be pleased to note that his show was the #1 rated show in Tiemo’s list of Top 10 shows of 2014.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town