Reviewer: Jo Beggs
You get your money’s worth with Jeremy Hardy. For over two hours he meanders through his preoccupations turning the mundane and the everyday into sharp, intelligent comedy. No support act. No theme. A dark stage, a spotlight and a microphone. Hardy’s a seasoned pro and a hard-working comedian. He’s here to do a job and he’ll do it well.
Hardy gently attacks Britishness, the BBC and Northerners, delivers witty observational banter on parenting, dog-walkers and swearing, all with his signature mix of middle-aged, middle-class passion and passivity – an old lefty whose lost none of his sense of social injustice, just some of the energy needed to do very much about it. The small amount of vitriol he can muster is levelled at party politics, in which none of those in or out of power come off terribly well, and Michael Gove gets a proper pasting.
Hardy is a great storyteller and a skilled mimic. He recounts stories with an air of gossip – it amuses him and he wants to amuse. He does brilliant funny voices and convincing accents. When he tells stories about him and his friends there’s a sense that it’s all one hundred per cent genuine, in fact, part of his routine is about how we’re getting the real Jeremy Hardy and not a stage personae, and he does have an appealing ’ordinary bloke’ air about him. Particularly hilarious things don’t happen to Hardy any more than they do to the rest of us, it’s just his recounting of them that makes for great comedy.
The regularity with which Hardy pops up on Radio Four clearly accounts for a large chunk of the audience for his stand-up shows. He confronts the main difference between broadcast and live performance, notably the swearing, full on and is unapologetic. He may just be looking to pre-empt the letters of complaint. F-words aside, Hardy is much the same amiable, sharp-witted individual you get on The News Quiz or I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, although Hardy’s best material on radio is often improvised reaction to other panel members. There’s little space for anything resembling an ad-lib in this tightly scripted live material and he makes it clear that he’s not in the business of audience interaction (“What’s your name and what do you do”). Still…it’s all great stuff and there’s lots of it.
At the end Hardy genuinely seems sorry to go. He thanks the audience for sticking with him for such a long show. There’s no need. They would happily have stayed for more.