COMEDY / Hardy annual: Mark Wareham reviews Jeremy Hardy's West End show

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The Independent Culture
Jeremy Hardy is most unlike his peers. It's not just that he eschews sharp suits and jeans in favour of the Terry Scott look. There are other equally laudable differences. He performs for over 70 minutes without an interval. More successful comedians split the the laughs an hour either side of a break (aka T-shirt sale opportunity), whereas the wham-bam set leaves the house gagging for more, or at least grateful for being spared a double dose of agony. This much Hardy knows - either that or he's only got an hour's worth of material anyway.

His style and content (like his wardrobe) can hardly be said to have evolved over the years. The fogey exterior conceals a concerned political mind that occasionally gives over to outbursts of rage, rendered doubly humorous by the wimpy delivery. If the angry young men of comedy are 1FM boys (loud, streetwise ego-paraders), then Hardy is the very essence of the Radio 4 man - solid, dependable, vaguely topical and prone to the odd self-conscious stab at quirkiness. Which makes it all the more disarmingly funny when he turns a touch risque. Take his material on old people. First, we get a groaner of a gag straight out of sitcomland - 'I love old people . . . Mind you, I think they should drive faster than they walk.' Then comes the unexpected . . . 'Old people, they've done everything.' And, as he graphically points out, when he says everything, he means everything.

Despite offsetting the grey cardie and slacks with a pair of DMs, bless him, Hardy still inhabits a Boy's Own world - Eve's in the Garden of Eden eating the apple and God is livid, 'cos scrumping was taken very seriously'. It's no surprise to find him talking at length about the ageing process. 'I don't think I'm getting more right-wing as I get older. I don't see why you should, though I suppose your brain cells die.' He flicks his head back and a lone hair, picked out in the lights, floats across the front row. Ageing before the audience's very eyes . . . you can't get more committed to your material than that.

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