In a review of Jerk the website Chortle called Michael Legge “The angriest man in UK comedy” and when I interviewed him he commented that it was true, but that “Thing is, I’m only angry at the culture of not caring, really. I only hate rude people. People making unnecessary noise or Jacob Rees-Mogg telling Northern Ireland that it can go back to how it was during The Troubles. All the same to me. Just people not giving a thought for anyone else.” And this is a major theme of Jerk, an incredibly funny hour that had me laughing from start to finish and several minutes afterwards.
It begins with Michael arguing with the producer of the show even before it begins, with him then taking to the stage and shouting “Finally some fucking whimsy, that’s what’s missing in comedy isn’t it everyone?”. He’s got a point too, I’m very fond of whimsy but there sure is a hell of a lot of it so it’s refreshing to listen to an understandably frustrated man rant about the ways of the world, though he breaks character from time to time so that you know certain comments are tongue in cheek, like when he moans about being 49 years old and that he has “all the illnesses”, like asthma, arthritis, diphtheria, psoriasis, cholera, sickle cell anaemia, dick flu and the black death.
Legge also reveals early on his left wing beliefs, and how “I’m not currently arguing with someone I completely agree with…I will though…I fucking will” which led to almost hysterical giggling, though my politics are the same as his I know too many people akin to his example. This leads in to the fact that he made a new friend recently, Simon, though unfortunately he’s a right win UKIP supporter who calls him Paddy, and on one occasion Mrs Brown, and though Legge can’t stand his politics he’s fascinated by his madness, calling him at one point “The comedy version of Andrew Lawrence” – which if you’ve had the misfortune to see Lawrence live will make you laugh an enormous amount. Legge gets a great deal of mileage out of this idiot’s beliefs, including that Simon thinks cctv in pubs “was put there by Jeremy Corbyn”, “When you watch the BBC the BBC watch you”, “The only time we’ll finally be safe in this country is when Putin takes America” and then best of all “The NHS is a joke…You wouldn’t break your neck if you had to pay for it”. It’s a superb segment which allows Legge to vent his anger at people who believe such things, and the reason why he’ll never speak to Simon again is a great one too.
After this there’s some impressive material about the internet and young people, with Michael complaining “Young people have ruined the internet…It took the internet so long to get started that we long forgot what we were angry about, and we were happier! We used to get up at five in the morning, put logs in the internet furnace”, all of which can’t be denied and amused a lot, as did a section about how his friends are trying to give him a heart attack by buying him a ticket for Mrs Brown’s Boys Live, and forcing him to listen to Ed Sheeran, which contains a joke about reforming the IRA to deal with him which is as hilarious as it is dark. All of his targets in this section are dealt with brutally and incredibly effectively, and deserve his withering and constantly funny anger too.
After a brief and very funny bit on people commenting that he’s lucky that he doesn’t have kids Legge launches in to a rant about Apple products, and the shop especially, which is the worst place he’s ever been in, and he’s been in Troubles era Northern Ireland “and the Theatre”, and how thanks to Apple watches “When you die everyone in your contacts list gets a sad face”. Then the final section is devoted to David Bowie, and Legge’s dog Jerk who also died in 2016. It’s sweet and affecting but also sharp and occasionally mocking, and contains some beautiful lines, like a friend’s throwaway comment about just getting a new dog when Jerk died, and how Michael was able to repeat it back to him shorty afterwards. And then it ends with with three songs from Jerk The Musical, which just made me want to hear a full length two hour version it.
It might be an angry hour but don’t think for a second that it’s not a bloody hilarious one, Legge uses the various topics to express outrage at specific situations but never forgets to be funny for a single second. And even if his anger does eventually lead to a heart attack it’ll be worth it, I mean, as long as he survives of course and doesn’t have a second one until he’s produced another ten shows as funny as this. After that he can die if he wants too, but it won’t be easy to just get another Michael Legge, his is a rare talent indeed.