Jack Rooke: Good Grief

Jack Rooke: Good Grief could probably win a prize for ‘comedy show with the least likely to be funny subject matter ever that actually turns out to be absolutely hilarious’.

Good Grief is a show that articulately and sensitively brings to light an extremely difficult topic that Rooke passionately believes and needs more attention.

Inspired by his experiences of losing his Dad very suddenly to cancer when he was 15 years old, the show is written in collaboration with Jack’s Nan and uses a mixture of video, music, stand-up comedy and storytelling to discuss the complex issues surrounding close family bereavement. The results? A multi-coloured coffin that appeared on Corrie filled with sweets, laughs cascading down on Rooke from an appreciative audience, and sweets. (Did I mention there were sweets?)

Jack’s fast-paced, witty monologue flows so naturally it feels like he’s just having a chat with some mates and is only incidentally sitting on a stage. The performance is interspersed by lots of fun cultural references to growing up at the turn of the millennium, from Super Mario 3 to the Spice Girls. He creates an ‘Awkwardometer’ to periodically measure the ‘level of awkwardness in the room’ as his story progresses.

Describing his memories of his cab driver dad’s school runs and silly pranks, he gives us a tongue in cheek overview of his childhood growing up in Watford, complete with a slideshow of nostalgic pictures. He remembers funny things his Dad said, but none of his anecdotes are sentimental. Then he drops the bombshell “when I was 15 my Dad died halfway through my GCSEs”. It’s not a revelation because we all know what the show is about, but the tone is set for Rooke’s approach to death: a combination of tongue in cheek humour, maturity and point blank honesty.

Rooke holds nothing back and is in no way self-pitying or looking for sympathy. He is rather using his own story to present an example of how isolating being bereaved can be, especially when all the people around you are hampered by their fear of what to say and how to act. He pokes fun at ‘sympathetic head tilts’, ineffectual counsellors and friends who drunkenly attempt to comfort him but ignore him when they’re sober.

Rooke’s Nan is the indisputable star of the show, appearing in a series of interview video clips. Even when sitting down, he towers above the tiny lady when they’re both on camera. Her wise comments layer Rooke’s story with her own parallel reaction to losing her son and reveal again how another silence, that of her husband, made it even harder for her to cope.

Nobody but Rooke could have told his story with such unflinching humour, but his final serious point is sobering: the widow’s allowance for families like Rooke’s is being cut in 2016 and the show is a vehement protest against this decision. Good Grief is a show that articulately and sensitively brings to light an extremely difficult topic that Rooke passionately believes and needs more attention.

Reviews by Lettie Mckie

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

With a coffin full of sympathy snacks, Jack Rooke and his 85-year old nan invite you to their weird and wonderful world of bereavement. Blending comedy, film and storytelling, Rooke's debut hour examines how we treat bereaved people, and challenges proposed 2016 welfare cuts for grieving families in Britain. Using humour to break down the awkwardness of discussing death, Good Grief aims to celebrate lost loved ones and finding happiness after tragedy. 'Rooke's anecdotes are hilarious' (BroadwayBaby.com). Featured on BBC Radio 1's Guide To Happiness. So You Think You're Funny 2014 semi-finalist. thegoodgriefproject.com