Milton Jones: The Lion Whisperer, Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Wednesday 04 May 2011
"You didn't fancy a street party either?" quips Radio 4 favourite Milton Jones to his Cambridge audience, perhaps grateful that those who had watched the royal wedding earlier (not a majority according to his quick voice poll) had decided not to forsake punnery for pageantry. Not that an evening with Jones is slumming it; he's arguably comedy royalty after all, king of his own brand of absurd wordplay, occupying a land that borders Tim Vine's equally distinct fiefdom.
Nonetheless, Jones at his best ("my father drove a taxi... he left home without any indication") is a tough act for the rest of his material to follow and, as with many excellent gagsmiths, his jokes quickly upstage each other with little breathing space in between. No time can be bought or rhythm changed by contextualising or storytelling – instead, Jones has to use a number of ruses to hang his jokes on.
The first conceit of the evening is for Jones to appear as his own grandfather, a character support act reminiscent of Cambridge-educated comedian Robert Newman, who played geriatric roles with a delicious cheek and winning eccentricity. In the world according to this superannuated character, Captain Cook only discovered Australia after curiosity got the better of him when he noticed that Australia Day was marked in his diary.
Jones returns as himself in the second act after Chris Stokes, his young support act who owes a little too much of a debt to Stewart Lee, closes the first half. What follows is a juxtaposition of the inspired ("Pritt is not the best lip salve I've ever used... but I couldn't complain") and the coy (suitcases bearing identity tags that read "Name: Mr Suitcase, Address: on top of the wardrobe"). The hour proves somewhat trying both for the face muscles and the senses, as a see-saw of stimulation and sedation is set in motion.
When the swings are so good the roundabouts could be forgiven if it weren't for the fact that there is a better show in here waiting to be teased out, with a different ordering of its elements and an unsentimental look at some of the sweeter material.
Touring to 29 May ( www.miltonjones.com)
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