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Home > Etc

I'm not giving you £100 for that, it's rubbish

Robin Ince

18 November 2003

London’s comedy circuit may seem like an anodyne medley of professionally performed routines on male/female differences and that bloke in the front row’s funny jumper. But while many comedians clamour for Jongleurs headline spots and their own building society commercial, one man eschews all forms of stand up normality and sell-out success in favour of being perplexing. That man is Jimbo.

If Jimbo was in the ICA rather than a comedy club, you might think he was a postmodern anti-comedian or Dadaist. But he has no agenda, he’s just doing what he likes. Sometimes he is reminiscent of George Carl, the clown who made the Queen mother laugh by fighting with a mic stand, on other occasions he’s more like an Andy Kaufman experiment. Here is a brief selection of Jimbo’s achievements to date:

1)He would stand on stage with a Fisher Price guitar that chimed ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and ask for any song requests; at each request he would flip the Twinkle Twinkle button, play it to the end, then ask for more requests. Some nights the audience got angry.

2)He would eat a can of dog food and then remove his clothes, all done with a matter-of-fact air that belied showmanship.

3) He travelled to a new act competition which had a £100 prize (possibly in Norfolk, though some say Lincoln) during a terrible blizzard. The only act to make it, the landlord offered him the £100 – Jimbo asked to go onstage anyway. After his performance, the landlord said, “I’m not giving you a £100 for that, it’s rubbish.” He went back into the blizzard.

But where is Jimbo now? Just this month he was in a room above a bar, occupied by slightly more wannabe comedians than audience. The three acts before him talked of the different ways women weep, and men’s ‘come faces’, then Jimbo came to the area of floor next to the record decks that was used as the stage. With the mic too high, he stood behind it and opened and closed his mouth, a faint mumbling just failing to reach our ears.

After some perplexed peering and tapping of the mic, he discovered his voice and out came a monologue on the difficulty of simmering water without boiling it, and the impossibility of cooking an old potato with new potatoes. The words would either be partially obscured by his low hum delivery or suddenly be barked as if he was in the throes of Tourette’s. He then talked of training wasps, gave a lengthy and repetitive description of a cowboy film he had seen the day before and ended by talking of seagulls that stole his fish and chips. Sometimes he seemed to veer towards a punchline, but swerved away before meeting that commitment. He may not have created the most laughter, but he had undoubtedly given the most memorable performance of the evening.

So why is Jimbo so doggedly resistant to being a marketable commodity? What fool could ever do the harshly critical comedy circuit without wanting to make a good living? I don’t know, but gas mark four might help to maintain a balance when cooking a confused mixture of old and new vegetables.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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