Jim Davidson, Assembly Halls - review: Crude jokes about genitalia and camel toe hail from forgotten era

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Edinburgh Festival 2014: TV presenter makes his Fringe debut 

“I'm much better than you thought, ain't I?” Not better, but Jim Davidson does not seem at all fazed as he makes his debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, home of liberal, avant-garde comedy. As he prowls the stage in his baggy, timeshare-seller's suit, lilac tie shining, he looks and sounds at home.

So comfortable is he, that the old Jim keeps peeping through. “I just can't help myself”, he says several times during the hour, often after he has showcased one of his many dubious accents: he does Scottish-Indian, black youth, deaf man, and in one joke - about the face you might pull when walking into a smelly pub toilet - “that fucker from North Korea. The dictator.”

The jokes are crude - genitalia, boozing and fat birds - if technically sound and consummately delivered. There are tales from Frank Carson's dressing room and accounts of trips to “Lidls” where Davidson encounters his least favourite type of person - the “underclass”. “Put it this way”, he says of one of his bugbears. “She looked like someone who hadn't lived in a house without wheels on.”

It all feels like something from another, happily forgotten, era. He will happily joke about the dimensions of an old woman's vagina but when he swears anatomically, he apologises to a lady on the front row.

Later he will mock her “leggings and camel toe” and ask her why she isn't wearing a dress. He will tell at least three stories, with sound effects, about oral sex then use “whoopy-do-do” as a euphemism in a story about Freddie Starr defecating in a guitar. Odd.

Perhaps it's because he's still trying out a “new, soft Jim”. This is stand-up as career-saver and book-shifter. Davidson has just had the best/ worst year of his life, having been arrested for historic sexual offences. The charges were dropped but he now has legal fees to pay and a book to sell.

It results in a middle section which is low on laughs but interesting in its own way as he outlines in detail what it felt like to wake up every day and wonder if Operation Yewtree would pounce. Redemption came via Celebrity Big Brother which he won in January, despite receiving “more nominations than Gone with the Wind” from his housemates. He has a lot of fans. 

At the end, he explains to them that he just wants to be back on stage, “keep plodding on”. The crowd roars; many get to their feet. He bowls out into the lobby to sell some books. Job done.

To 25 August (0131 623 3030)

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