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15th Aug 2018

FRINGE 2018: Why you need to see… Justin Moorhouse

Nooruddean Choudry

Who: Justin Moorhouse

What: Northern Joker

Where: Gilded Balloon Teviot – Dining Room

When: 7pm


From the very outset, Justin Moorhouse plays with preconceptions of who and what he is. He explains that the ‘Northern Joker’ title of his show derives from the fact that he is indeed a performer of jokes and clearly Northern (in relative English terms at least). This lends itself to lazy clichés of what a working-class comedian from the North should be.

He flips that on its head when he explains that he is in fact a teetotal vegan, and therefore nothing like the beer-swilling club comic expectation. He apologises to any Northerners in the audience for this betrayal of his people – particularly his lack of interest in gravy – but makes up for it with an hour of more laughter than most of his peers can manage in a week.

Moorhouse is a giant of the comedy circuit and renowned as a gifted comic, so it is little surprise that he is able to induce a room to hysterics with seeming ease. However, the fact he makes it look so easy shouldn’t detract from how talented and skilled he is at his craft. Moorhouse is masterful at making a large collective feel happy and that’s a rare fucking gift.

The problem with this is it can lead some to assume that he focuses on laughs out of necessity rather than choice – instead of building in a beard-stroking, tear-jerking narrative. This is bollocks of course. Moorhouse is erudite, socially conscious, empathetic, tolerant, politically aware, and liberal – everything the Fringe wanks over. But it’s his choice not to make all that the prime focus.

Don’t get me wrong – the show is layered and varied. Amongst the subjects covered are Brexit, dementia, Donald Trump, regional nuance, puberty, Scottish independence, and fatherhood. But it’s all covered with a deft lightness of touch.

There are elements of Moorhouse’s show that he could easily have expanded upon if impressing the critics was his prime objective. He laments his daughter and son leaving childhood behind – something he could definitely have milked for the sake of stars. He touches upon the impact of the Manchester Arena attack – a tragedy he could’ve exploited, were he a twat.

The thing is he’s not. Moorhouse is considerate and collegial (reeling off a plethora of fellow comedians to catch), and above all generous to the audience. He wants them to go away smiling. Justin is the smartest man in the room, but doesn’t feel the need to prove it. Instead he makes people laugh because that is what’s important to him.

Half way through the act, Moorhouse suggests that if the audience are to take anything away from his fine show, it should be to “try your best, enjoy yourself, and be kind.” There is real sincerity to his words, as he seems to channel Elwood P. Dowd. Northern Joker is a testament to this mantra – as well as being really fucking funny.

You can buy tickets for Northern Joker here.

Want more from the Edinburgh Fringe?

Listen to the JOE at the Edinburgh Fringe podcast with Nooruddean Choudry and Si Clancy

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