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Comedy review: Jack Dee Live, The Anvil, Basingstoke


Jack Dee ambled almost reluctantly on to the Anvil stage tonight to open his gig, signifying that he was in a characteristically grumpy mood. However, the 51-year-old quickly dispelled the idea that he was reticent to entertain, confiding in us that going out on the road is good for the soul - it keeps family life tolerable.

Dry and distant is what we have come to expect from Britain's answer to Jackie Mason (and to a host of other old school US observational stand ups for that matter) and his latest tour does not disappoint. Dee 'celebrates' that one of his teenage's son plays Grand Theft Auto online with friends - because it frees Dee from welcoming these friends into his home. Meanwhile, visitors who do enter the Dee household and dare to use his plug sockets to charge their mobile phones are informed: "my car is outside, why not go and siphon the petrol out of it?"

Dee's aloof posturing is often caused by the generation gap, though, while he's irritated by the sight of his brood eating from the fridge and simultaneously texting, he takes comfort that older people now have one over on the young, economically speaking. "I have a house" is the smirking sentiment that helps him to cope with a group of young revellers chorusing Lady Gaga songs outside of his house.

As man who is protective of his mains supply and delights in tearing out the last pages of books before donating them to charity shops, one might wonder at the cruelty of Dee's shtick. However, any mean spiritedness is, at least, shared equally from electricians to the Royal Family, and it often has an undertone of grudging tenderness to it. Doling out money to his daughter after she has beguiled it from him is one such example, and one very reminiscent of his character in Lead Balloon, Rick Spleen.

Always a simmerer rather than a boiler in terms of momentum, Dee unravels his pedestrian-yet-pleasurable routines across the idea that he has a a bad week and runs us through some inconsequential daily hooks, before weaving away from them each time on to more fertile riffs.

The hubbub of those leaving the Anvil suggested the consensus opinion was that this straight down-the-line stand up, free of pretence and self-reference, was an unchallenging but not unwelcome experience. True to the spirit of the observational comedy they had just witnessed, they were all saying what I was thinking.