“Orthodox”, according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, is an adjective that suggests “following or conforming to the traditional or generally accepted rules or beliefs of a religion, philosophy, or practice”; when specifically applied to people, it implies they are “not independent-minded; conventional and unoriginal”, “of the ordinary or usual type; normal”. So it at first glance it seems to be a brave choice of adjective in the title of a debut solo show. In an Edinburgh Festival Fringe where everyone’s trying to out-outrage the outrageous (or at least come across as a tad outré), is attempting to be “normal” actually the most radical approach possible?
Joe Jacobs is funny, entertaining and ready to stir up some audience interaction, so he’s certainly worth putting some paper money into the bucket by the exit.
Except, Joe Jacobs – coming to Edinburgh with the phrase “award winning comedian” already attached to his name – isn’t quite as “normal” as you might think. There can’t be that many middle-class, white Jewish rappers from Middle England among the Fringe’s thousands of performers, but arguably Jacobs’ act is sufficiently unusual to be – at least within the context of the Fringe – an absolutely typical example of what you can expect to find in Edinburgh during August. Indeed, it’s all too clear how “normal” – in terms of the Fringe – his act is; he opens with some recollections absolutely dependent on the well-worn cliches of angry locals encountered while handing out flyers, and his experiences of the unfriendly members of US Homeland Security.
Jacobs is young, attractive, and comes with a certain degree of self-deprecation and knowing mockery – again, hardly rare concepts within Fringe Programme’s comedy section. So any hope for something different actually rests in his raps, most of which are quite deliberately unsuccessful – deliberate signposts in his personal journey towards the big time. Or not, as his Vanessa Feltz-inspired album tends to prove; given his background and passions, rap has proved somewhat challenging.
Some of his tracks are more sharply realised than others; somehow, though, we don’t quite get to feel the depth of conflict going on inside his head between “the glamour of rap” and “the reality of life”, even though he goes into some detail about the crap jobs he’s undertaken of late – including some spreadsheets intensive office job from which he was eventually made redundant. Again, this kind of thing is pretty “orthodox” on the Fringe; Jacobs hasn’t quite yet found his comedic USP quite yet, at least when he’s not rapping.
Joe Jacobs is funny, entertaining and ready to stir up some audience interaction, so he’s certainly worth putting some paper money into the bucket by the exit. As yet, though, he lacks that difficult-to-describe, but so obvious when it’s there, “something” that would make him a must-see stand-up. He may well get there but, ironically, it’s likely to require him to offer something much more unorthodox for the Fringe.