Live Review: Jordan Brookes, Soho Theatre

Live Review: Jordan Brookes, Soho Theatre

This is an awful, awful show. I don't know how anybody would consider buying a ticket. Quite why anyone would want to pay real money to see Jordan Brookes is beyond me. No, of course I don't mean this, but it's the sort of emotional rollercoaster verbal rug-pull that Jordan Brookes excels at, taking his audience one way then doing a complete U-turn just when you least expect it. There is nobody in comedy who can fake sincerity and its opposite quite as convincingly as Jordan Brookes. 

Brookes' new show – his first since winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2019 – is entitled This Is Just What Happens and is, notionally, about how one's mental health deals with a remark that seems offhand but hits home. Brookes explains that he was described as a "slimeball" back in 2019 and has spent the last three years processing this. The desire to erase memories is a theme that runs through his set.

He starts out by saying that he is now a "nice guy" and not the confrontational, challenging, anarchic anti-entertainer of old. And there is some truth in this. The first third of the show is conventional, accessible observational stand-up. Well, conventional within Brookes' framework, telling stories about a speech at his cousin's wedding, noting how difficult it can be to relax normally or reflecting on the fact that the world would be a better place if only we were all kinder. 

All of this is accompanied by Brookes contorting his wired, angular body onstage. Removing items of clothing, twisting and turning his legs on the stool he partly sits on. He has talked in the past about being the "existential Michael McIntyre" but with his nervy physicality he is more like an angst-ridden Lee Evans. Although I don't quite recall Evans ever doing a routine about his belated sexual awakening and calling it a journey to "Fucktown". 

This is certainly Brookes' least weird show to date and a great primer for new fans. Yes, there are still riffs about having sex dreams about family members. Yes, the set does turn a little into uncomfortable performance art towards the end. Yes, you never quite know when he is being serious or yanking your crank. 

If you've never seen Brookes before but like stand-up go see him. He's unique. There is plenty here for the mainstream comedy fan to enjoy while also plenty to keep the beard-stroking media elite happy too. And I mean that most sincerely. 

Until June 11, tickets here, then touring, details here.

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