Jeremy Hardy ambles on stage without introduction in a packed Spiegeltent for this Bath Fringe Festival appearance, and launches into his set.  He doesn’t stop for over an hour. Then an interval for him and us to draw breath.  Then another session for another hour or more, and he shows no sign of flagging.

Hardy’s style is clever, consisting of repeatedly saying he hasn’t got a style, that this is just him rambling on: in fact this is expert stuff, rammed with gags and jokes and self–deprecation, and any fluffs are covered with instantly thought-up covering gags, gags tumbling over gags.  And don’t get me started about the man’s acting ability.  He probably wouldn’t describe himself as an actor, but he has an immense array of different characters and accents all with a wickedly accurate delivery that would excite the envy of anyone in the RSC.  And he remains uncompromisingly and unashamedly a leftie.  There are other comics who do, but Jezza is not preachy and bombastic like a Mark Thomas, nor unconcerned whether he’s actually making people laugh like a Stuart Lee. Jezza’s stuff is hard-hitting in its way, especially when describing the more egregiously idiotic of right-wing ideas, but always has tremendous warmth and humanity:  he gives the lie to the Daily Mail idea that socialists are cold-hearted, humourless ideologues bent on the destruction of society.  Pointless to go into detail of the enormous span of subjects he covers, from whether it’s OK for an atheist to like religion (yes) to whether it’s unfair to comment on Eric Pickles’ appearance (no); but is he funny?  Well, emphatically yes. His ideas and social comments are wide-ranging and thought-provoking, but he sticks firmly to the prime duty of a comic which is to make people laugh; and he has the audience and this critic crying with laughter (literally: the hankie is soaked) for the whole evening.  Genius.

 

*****

John Christopher Wood