Newbury Comedy Festival: Dom Joly at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, July 9
I CAN’T say that there’s many live stage shows which end with the audience running screaming from the auditorium (or at least attempting to, until they start to bottleneck and feel a tad self conscious about the screaming). But then, this is a show presented by hidden camera legend Dom Joly, where the unexpected is to be expected.
Ending with a mass audience “reaction” stunt to potentially be used as the trailer for Joly’s planned film War Of The Flea (I suspect we won’t make it into the final cut, although the clip can be voted for at www.facebook.com/officialdomjoly), the evening also featured a rock & roll guitar-smashing experience, clips and stills from Joly’s various television shows and globe-trotting adventures, and, of course, a giant mobile phone.
Joly appears to be a man with a talent in search of a niche - and possibly a television channel. This wasn’t a stand-up show, rather an autobiographical look at his career, starting with the mass cult success of Channel 4’s Trigger Happy TV and its expensive international follow-up World Shut Your Mouth (binned by the BBC when it realised that jetting to Newfoundland for the sole purpose of “frightening an Eskimo” possibly wasn’t the most justifiable outlay of taxpayers’ cash).
He then told some very amusing tales from his Sky series Dom Joly’s Happy Hour, an alcohol-fuelled trip around the world, and briefly reminisced about his appearance in I’m A Celebrity... last year (he came fourth), when he learnt how to keep sane from Shaun Ryder, who directed his fellow “prisoners” to steal gaffer tape and pens from the production crew in order to beat the system, and for which he will forever be known as “the man Stacey Solomon chucked a stone at”.
Rather strangely, the audience were given the opportunity to recreate this moment, but only through the purchase of felt-covered “stones” during the interval at £1 a pop. They were rather nice, and if I had bought one, I would rather have held on to it. Such blatant fund-raising may have see med a little mercenary, but as Joly pointed out, he needed to cover the costs of 70 guitars to be smashed - one for each night of the tour - and noticing a spike in sales at one of their stores, Argos had put the price up.
Joly was born and brought up in war-torn Beirut, and despite now being settled in the Cotswolds, his urge to experience different countries and cultures remains strong. As well as a “serious” career as a travel writer, he recently published a book, Dark Tourist, about some of the world’s more macabre holiday destinations (I bought it afterwards - it’s a good read), resulting in some revealing tales about North Korea and Chernobyl (he had a great sense of deja vu in visiting the nearby ghost town of Pripyat, before realising that the video game shoot-em-up Call Of Duty was based there)
Afterwards, at the book signing, Joly admitted that he was rather ill, and had in fact cancelled the previous two nights’ dates. “I’m not sure how it came across, tonight, but it was great in my head”, he told me. Luckily it was pretty good outside of his head as well. Slightly odd, but different. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 14, 2011