The 2000 Year Old Man Still Feels Fresh Today
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
There is a lovely bit of comedy history that’s been thawed out and brought back to life in north London. The 2000 Year Old Man was a routine concocted by comedy legends Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner in 1961, then went on to be recorded as an album that sold over one million copies and spawned a series of popular follow-ups.
It’s a simple premise (the title says it all), but one which opens up innumerable possibilities for silly (and sometimes serious) schtick. Basically, Brooks is the man claiming to be two millennia old, though he seems more like a Jewish retiree from Florida, while Reiner is the sceptical interviewer who probes his subject’s flaky knowledge of history. Cue absurd explanations of the origin of the handshake, why Shakespeare was a terrible writer and how a guy called Bernie first discovered women. It’s wordy American Vaudeville at its finest, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for those who like this sort of thing, the current revival at the snazzy JW3 Jewish Community Centre will be catnip.
Kerry Shale takes on the title role, channelling Brooks but also making the part his own; while Chris Neill asks the questions – playing his part as starched as Reiner did but now a shade more BBC. The two have great chemistry and the 50-year-old jokes stand up well. The playfulness is also peppered with the occasional pause for thought (the trawl back through history inevitably throwing up some darker, more difficult times) and there is wisdom aplenty.
The material has been adapted well by Shale — no mean feat considering the fact that a lot of the original was semi-improvised. Matthew Lloyd's direction focuses wisely on getting the repartee right rather than overly-fancy or distracting staging. It’s a charming, laugh out loud hour — and with Mel Brooks himself coming to town for his one man show, it makes an excellent primer.
The 2000 Year Old Man runs at JW3 until 22 March. Tickets are £12.50 (with some concessions available). Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 12 March 2015