“His journey from the streets of Byker to the red carpet of the Cannes film festival is beautifully encapsulated in his comment upon encountering a incredulous Meryl Streep at a star-studded buffet: “Hey, Meryl – it’s all free!””
To anyone who follows stand-up comedy closely, the name Dave Johns ought to be familiar: founder of Newcastle’s first comedy club, and as such co-facilitator of several of his contemporaries’ glittering careers; and veteran of both the Fringe and the year-round club circuit. Though not quite – yet – a household name, his face is much more familiar since starring in the title role of I, Daniel Blake, and a subsequent movie career including Fisherman’s Friends.
Johns is on top comic form in this hour-long one-man show, which combines general observational patter with reflections on his rags-to-riches life. As his close relationship with his audiences suggests, he prefers working in small, intimate venues where he can chat with the punters – indeed, there won’t have been a dry seat left in the front row, judging by the helpless laughter of two ladies he focused on. As Johns tells us, no two nights of his show are the same as he tries out slightly different material each night to see what goes down well. Highlights of this particular evening were a surreal shaggy dog story about an orphan midget; audience participation in a chorus of The Pirate King; and the reason why he’ll never be in a Stephen Spielberg film. His journey from the streets of Byker to the red carpet of the Cannes film festival is beautifully encapsulated in his comment upon encountering an incredulous Meryl Streep at a star-studded buffet: “Hey, Meryl – it’s all free!”
For a man who’s spent so many years wielding a microphone, there is inevitably some sage reflection on the nature of what he does. Rightly disparaging the vast, impersonal arenas played by some of his contemporaries, and the slick glitz of Live at the Apollo. Johns champions the unpredictable intimacy of small venues. “I’m at the two-tickets-for-the-price-of-one end of the market”, he notes disparagingly, adding ironically that the more five-star reviews he gets, the fewer the people who come to see him.
I came away from this show not having laughed out loud so much in years. Give me heart and soul stuff like this rather than an arena any day. So come for the authenticity. Stay for the non-stop laughs. Leave with a great big cheeky-chappie smile on your face. This is Geordie humour so, even if it’s baltic out, leave your coats at home and go see this!