Review: We Went To See Rhys James On Friday, And Thank F**K We Did
Talk about comic timing. On Friday, Rhys James was cracking coronavirus gags to a sold-out but half-empty Leicester Square Theatre. A couple of days later, the theatre closed indefinitely, owing to... Christ, do we even need to say it? His next performance of Snitch here, though, wasn't due till November — by which time, who knows, this whole director's cut of Black Mirror might have blown over. Did Rhys James know something we didn't?
As is written in the Comedian's Topicality Clause Section 24c, James starts by touching on current events, courtesy of some light coughing gags, delivered to a palpably nervous audience. (In their favour, it's a cumbersome theatre, where you hear the silence of empty seats.) Something else conspicuous about this audience is their maturer years; something that Rhys references throughout the night. It's like watching 200 pairs of parents being proud of their son.
The first half of Snitch is decent enough, with solid material on the pitfalls of renting, and the japes you can have with Bluetooth shower speakers. It's hardly setting-the-world-on-fire stuff though (hmm, should we be talking about the end of the world?). James doesn't help himself by bringing on his hench alter ego Ed Gamble, for a mini-set of superb half-riffed new material. Gamble also nails the Covid-19 material with a rant on the British public's obsession with toilet paper. (Don't expect this to happen in November.)
As if bitten by some comedy bug in the interval, James returns a rebooted comedian, armed with observation that's both acute and cute: when mums buy you a Christmas present with a receipt, they're essentially buying you 'an errand'. You only have 'two places' at primary school (a peg and a tray) and only learn about two things (tadpoles and cress).
The boyish comedian ramps up the self-deprecation: if he turned up at his former school to do a talk, he worries, the kids would spot him across the playground and assume he was new blood. James's nostalgic brand of comedy is especially pertinent for a child of the 90s — then again many of tonight's audience fall outside of that bracket, so it's obviously wider-reaching stuff.
The mic drop moment comes during a bit on how life is a washing cycle from sink to bath to shower to bath to bed bath — although James has another devilishly clever idea for how to round off the set.
We were umming and ahing whether to go to this at all; Londonist doesn't usually review one-off comedy shows (the November date sold us in the end). But thank f**k we did. This night with Rhys James will live long and fondly in our memory. And though part of the reason is because coronavirus has banned live comedy for the indefinite future — like some contagious, invisible Oliver Cromwell — Rhys James is pretty bloody funny too.
Rhys James: Snitch is (hopefully) on at Leicester Square Theatre, 20 November, tickets £18.50+booking fee
Last Updated 19 March 2020