I’ve only ever briefly seen Jon Richardson on television, as a guest on Have I Got News For You, when I’ve always found him very funny. We’ve never watched 8 Out of 10 Cats, so I’ve no idea what he’s like on that. But his stage persona of being a grumpy young man – like the Youth Division at Jack Dee Ltd – was new to me, I’d never realised that was his comic Modus Operandi. He’s obviously extremely popular on his TV shows as the Derngate was packed to the rafters with mainly young beery guys and cheeky girls on all boys’ or all girls’ nights out. Mrs Chrisparkle and I probably stood out like proverbial sore thumbs.
It’s unusual for a comic to give his tour a name – this is the “Nidiot” tour – without actually referring to it as part of the material. I wondered if I was missing out on a new generic word so I consulted Urban Dictionary for help – and there’s all sorts of explanations for it there. To me it’s simply an elegant example of metanalysis – one of fourteen ways of making a new word in English without borrowing from a foreign word – where the last letter of the word before moves over to join with the first letter of the next word – thus an idiot becomes a nidiot. It can work backwards too; the Old English for that native snake of ours was a “naedre”, but the “n” went back the other way and it became an “adder”. I can talk about this for hours, particularly when I’ve had a few. Just ask Mrs C. On second thoughts don’t. But there was no particular reason for this show title. It might just as well have been called “Ninny” – which is metanalysis of “an inny” (short for “innocent”). I know. I’ll stop now.
I’m digressing; and that’s on purpose because I find I don’t actually have a lot to say about Jon Richardson’s stand up act. It’s not often that Mrs C differ on our attitudes to individual stand-up comics – we usually like the same kind of thing – but this was one of those occasions. To be fair – we didn’t differ widely, we differed somewhat. We both found him generally entertaining and engaging, but whereas he held my attention for the entirety of the show – 2 hours 20 minutes including an interval, overrunning by half an hour – Mrs C slept for the last twenty minutes. But I can kind of see why she lost interest. His material, funny as it is, is very self-orientated. It’s all about how he doesn’t fit in with the other guys on stag nights; or how he doesn’t want to get married like all his mates; how he’s happier being a Lake District lad than a Londoner; how he didn’t get on well in a “Real Man” reality TV show, mixing with other “real man” wannabes. He’s basically a bit of a loner.
There’s also a certain lack of light and shade to his material – one could be unkind and say it’s all “me, me, me” but in a sense it is; you don’t get much impression of the other people who weave their way in and out of his life, whereas most other comics blend in funny material about their mates, their wives and girlfriends, their children, and so on. Even their dog. I also found his material very hard to recollect the day after. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable; but I don’t think he tackled any major issues and made you think differently about them as a result. The only specific sequence I can remember with any real certainty was his regretting that he’d never masturbated outside in the open air when he was younger. He’s decided it’s too late to start now. The fact that I remember that probably says more about me than him.
There’s also a slight credibility issue (for me) in that I don’t think he looks like a grumpy young man. He smiles a lot – he seems to be having a good time up there on the stage, and, swear words notwithstanding, he’s very polite in his attitude to us. He’s keen to please; he wants us to have a good time. This is not symptomatic of a grumpy young man. I think Mrs C believed in his grumpiness more than I did. He was also one of those pacey comedians – by which I don’t mean that he kept it all going at a super pace (although in that sense it was all paced just fine) – but he paced from side to side the whole night long. He actually only paced across the central area, not from wings to wings, and he did it quite fast; so he really did give the impression of the legendary caged tiger. It did make me feel a little anxious, if I’m honest.
However, once all that criticism is out of the way, what you’ve got left to appraise is, is he funny? Yes, he is; I laughed a lot. Mrs C laughed too – though not quite as much as me; and certainly not during the last twenty minutes, when she simply decided she’d had enough; she’d enjoyed what she’d listened to, but she didn’t feel as though continuing to listen to his material would substantially add to the enjoyment of the evening. She can be quite a harsh critic, can Mrs C. In fact, what she said was: “he was like comedy Enya – very nice, but it all just went on in the background”.