Edinburgh Festival 2011: Jimeoin – Lovely

Jimeoin – Lovely ***

Assembly George Square, Speigeltent. 9pm

The problem with having “principles” about comedy is that, occasionally, you’ll be forced to compromise them. That experience, dear reader, is painful. I should know: I’m living the agony right now by giving Jimeoin a 3-star review.

Allow me to elaborate.

The one thing I hate in comedy, above all other things, is “safety”. This hatred is born of watching people like Jason Manford succeed over and over again, peddling a line of wet, suitable-for-primetime humour which has been drained of all life and edge. When I see a performance and know that the comedian was more concerned with making it family-friendly than making it funny, I despair.

With that in mind, imagine how taken aback I was by Jimeoin, a performer who delivers genuine observational comedy of a very high grade without the need to push boundaries. Every fibre of my comedy-snob being rebelled against the idea that I could enjoy this show, even as the rest of me chuckled away happily throughout.

The secret here is that Jimeoin is the sort of guy who popularised observational comedy in the first place. His insights – and the characterisations which spring from them – are very sharp indeed, but contrastingly, are delivered in a softly casual style. All the elements of the craft are on display here: tone of voice, facial expression and timing are all superbly judged throughout the show, creating the impression of a very skilled and experienced performer. And yet, so safe! Worrying cracks appeared in the roof of my tunnel-vision as the evening progressed.

Jimeoin’s subject matter is almost exclusively pre-watershed stuff, but it’s good nonetheless. He does a good skit about memory, which is actually based on the supposed phenomenon of eye-accessing cues; there’s a “shouldn’t-be-funny-but-is” segment with a guitar and unintelligible lyrics; an errant ringtone emerging from the audience prompted some amusing remarks about phones lost in handbags. He even did a piece about Chickens which was amongst the funniest things I have seen at this festival. Nothing scandalous, but nothing that would embarrass any other comedian in the land.

The conclusion I’ve come to, having watched and enjoyed this show, is two pronged:

  • Firstly, I hate safe and ‘observational’ comedy mainly because the usual purveyors are much less skilled at it than Jimeoin is.
  • Secondly, while I still don’t experience laughter-paralysis watching material this safe, it can still be very funny from time to time.

So there you have it: despite running afoul of all my daft predjudices, Jimeoin was still a solid evening’s entertainment. Part of me even wants to rate him more highly, but I just can’t quite make the case for it. However, if you’re less of a mean old comedy curmudgeon than I, you can add a fourth star to the score, safe in the knowledge that most folk with a couple of shandies in them will have a rare old time watching this slick performer at work.

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