Mark Cooper-Jones is a Geography teacher. No, really, he is. Well, part-time at least. I’m not sure where he teaches, possibly 1948. At least, that’s how it felt from the outset of this half-hour free show. Mr Cooper-Jones lets you know who’s in charge from the start (when was the last time you stood up as a comic entered the room?). You are in Mr Cooper-Jones’ classroom now and he expects some discipline.
The comic-persona Cooper-Jones has constructed is a well-honed stereotype somewhere between the dryness of Greg Davies and the freneticism of Will Hay. He wears his elbow patches with pride and holds his audience with an air of self-satisfied wit. But this isn’t just entertainment, it’s educational too. Pausing to sniff the walls of the Cabaret Voltaire, we are informed that the wall structure is indeed igneous in nature. Now, call me a soft-touch, but anyone willing to sniff the walls anywhere near Cowgate deserves both our praise and admiration. Cooper-Smith is not a one-trick pony, however, and he moves seamlessly from his faux teacher creation to the real Mark (that’s Mark with a ‘k’, as he is swift to point out – apparently there’s something very suspicious about Marcs with a ‘c’). This is where he is at his best. There is a tightly-scripted rant about how a traditional boarding school education made him the man his is today and a hilarious sketch about an ill-fated trip to a hospital. He is at ease with his audience in the midsection of the show, drawing on the teachers present to reveal a little of his real-life professional world. His opinions about the quirks of Year 9 are as well observed as they are painfully funny. This is the unfettered Mr Cooper-Jones, who can tell his audience what he really thinks.
The show closes with a quiz (see, I told you it was educational?). But, don’t get your hopes up, because Cooper-Jones has memorised the capital cities of nearly 200 UN-recognised countries. What could have been a very dry ending is constantly enlivened by the sheer pleasure he takes in his success and the audience’s hapless ignorance. Never patronising, you have to admire Mr Cooper-Jones, even if you’re not quite sure you’d have wanted to have been taught by him. This is a confident performance from someone on the cusp of stardom and a joy to watch. Pack your schoolbag and get down to class right now!