NOT Bad finds itself in a dilemma. Admittedly, we’re not talking a Sophie’s Choice type of dilemma; nobody’s facing a gas chamber or anything, but still. Tricky. It involves talking about someone behind his back; someone who up until now we have loved unconditionally and without equivocation.
Yes – comedian/writer/actor, Jack Dee.
We gave our unstinting heart to Jack Dee a long time ago. We offered it up freely and fully with no expectation of return or small thoughtful trinkets wrapped in tissue paper and left on our pillow on special days calendar-marked with a glitter-penned heart.
We loved him before his shiny-suited magnificence bestrode the Apollo in all its misanthropic glory; our heart thrilled for him long before his Doug Digby in ‘The Grimleys’ had us addicted to the smell of medicine balls, and waaay before ‘Jonathan Creek’, when we got all sweaty and mouth-breathey at the thought of his curled upper lip.
Actually, we can’t remember precisely when our comedic ovaries first clenched and released a titter ovum ripe for fertilization by Dee’s potent joke juice, but we’re pretty sure the table was set and the candles lit during a skit on MoJos and Fruit Salads back in the early ’90s. It’s the little things, right?
And then, last Tuesday, there was the man himself. In front of us. Live and in the flesh; if not within spitting distance then certainly within throwing distance of something medium-weight – perhaps a copy of his marvellous autobiography ‘The Jack Dee Memoirs: Thanks for Nothing’.
We found ourselves laughing. Of course we did! It’s Jack-freakin-Dee! That’s why we paid the ticket price. It’s him! Off the telly! Even Queen Victoria’s pelvic floor would have faced a work out. (Mind, after nine kids it would have been only a knock-knock punchline away from total collapse. Unofficially, stress incontinence is the real reason why Queen Victoria couldn’t risk amusement. Pass it on.)
But, oh boy. Giggles, guffaws and howls of laughter. Sat in such an infectious mirth-cloud we could have had our bunions done right there in Row F and felt no pain. Carried along on a current of delight while happy tears stripped the mascara from our lashes – there’s no need for make-up in a world created from Dee-bliss – we wanted his show, ‘Work in Progress’, to last forever.
And then our stupid, stupid head waded in to spoil the fun. A small cough, then:
“Excuse me. We’re doing some market research; we won’t take a moment of your time. Are you finding the show genuinely funny or are you finding it funny in anticipation of finding it funny?”
“It’s Jack Dee, Head, you bloody buzz-kill.”
“Indeed. Precisely. Are you laughing because you find the material well-observed, crafted, and delivered…?
“Hel-loo? Jack Deity Dee?”
“… or because…?”
“Jesus, I mean. Who doesn’t find Jack Dee hilarious? We just have to look at him and… well, bloody hell. It’s Jack Dee.”
“… yes, that. Because it’s Jack Dee?”
Blast. We hate it when Head does that.
Reviewing is an exercise in subjectivity, which is why a negative review is a frivolous and feeble-minded excuse for suicide. Any critique should be taken with a pinch of salt, mindful that the reviewer will have based his/her opinion on a circuitry of prejudice hard-wired over the years.
Here at NOT BAd HQ we try to temper our own personal bent by applying solder blobs of objectivity to our reviewing. Good can be found in bad and, though it pains us to say this, bad can be found in good.
Oh, Jack. Forgive us.
As Jack’s first foray into stand-up after an absence of six years, ‘Work in Progress’ could be summed up as simply this: work in progress.
Did you see what he did there? The whole point of showcasing new material in small venues around the country is to provide Dee with the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t before taking it on tour later in the year. The title is an explanation and a pre-emptive apology all rolled into one.
Not that Dee had anything to apologise for. It’s down to his experience and comedy-writing skill (think ‘Lead Balloon’ and allow a little spasm of joy to work through your body) that nothing categorically didn’t work. More, it was a question of things not quite hitting the mark, as if he’d been using round-ended scissors rather than a scalpel when crafting certain conceits. Edges were a bit messy.
The light switch in the garage story was a case in point. We were waiting for it to get wings but it never really left the ground, just pedalled furiously without fully getting airborne. Expounding his “So what?” philosophy, Dee seemed to hit his stride, but while the Queen being introduced to a long-serving Post Office worker found its mark, the competitive parent element didn’t. We could see when Dee himself lacked conviction in a gag, relying instead on a well-timed grimace to convert a chuckle into a laugh.
A glorious moment in the evening arrived when Dee wandered completely off-script as someone left to go to the toilet. This hapless audience member (allegedly with only one testicle) became the subject of a running gag for the rest of the night. Dee appeared to get a visible boost from this audience interaction, an injection of confidence, and from that point on he had more focus and control.
So, yes. ‘Work in Progress’ was exactly that. But to be honest with you, it didn’t matter because, hey – it’s Jack Dee and we love him. And while these days we don’t want to marry him or have his babies, we would still entertain the notion of visiting him in his sleep and stealing his semen with a view to selling it on e-Bay.
NOT BAd feels sure this will be of comfort to him when he finds out we’ve been talking about him behind his back.