Miles Jupp - City Varieties - 31st Jan 2014

We went to see Miles Jupp the other day at City Varieties. If you know him you'll know his kind of posh laid back style. His art lies mainly in a finely tuned choice of phrase which he deploys with a wry smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He is well-spoken, well educated but seems to play with these qualities almost as a way to give himself a kind of outsider status. This can work to his advantage allowing him to take a skewed view of normal life but with his calm and laid back delivery can also end up giving him the demeanour of a slightly confused uncle. It makes him seems older than he is - something he is clearly aware of.

Jupp is the father of four children under the age of five and the first half of the show was given over to a lot of material about parenthood. I liked this as it chimed with my experience and although I'm slightly older, Jupp's tribulations we recognisably funny. Surprisingly what he seemed to bring to this (more than say, Michael McIntyre) is a genuine sense of bleak desperation. The depths of his despair when attempting to deal with his children and the extent to which he is physically and mentally ravaged by parenthood went further than other comedians I’ve seen (I guess because of his particular situation they literally do) and in that sense struck a rather more resonant chord. Where other comedians have been shocked or enraged by their children's inability or refusal to cooperate (see Louis CK) Jupp seems utterly defeated and in that I think he takes a rather brave tack allowing the comedy to compete with the tragedy a little. He doesn't stop being funny, but I think he has to work a little harder for it as his starting point is less ironic, less comic.

After the interval the material diverged a bit into more general territory and sort of ambled towards politics. There's no doubt Jupp is highly intelligent and quick witted and happily those qualities also manifest themselves in a left-leaning sensibility which he contrasts nicely with the public perception of himself as slightly posh and "probably a Tory". The politics part didn't really take off though. It might be because it’s less personal than the parental anecdotes, or simply because his attempts to engage with politics have been thwarted recently by exhaustion, but whilst you could see that under the surface there was a real sense of disbelief and anger at the government and a clear understanding of the implications of their actions it never quite translated into consistently great material. There were some excellent lines along the way and he's clearly a gifted observational comic, but in comparison with the first half it lacked a theme and so felt a bit more disjointed.

He ended with a comparatively rip-roaring tale about his adventures in a provincial every-town (was it Norwich?) with another comedian and a lot of running around (in the tale, not the performance). Lots of lovely material on hotel staff, taxis, out of town shopping and finally ending on a callback which cleverly made sense of one part of the second half rambling.

All in all it was a quality evening's comedy. The City Varieties is a fantastic venue and sitting in the stalls looking up slightly you could tell the whole room was enjoying it. He doesn't blaze across the stage or grab you by the balls but he's certainly one of those comedians who you could quite happily sit and listen to for as long as they'd be willing to stay.