FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see… Joe Jacobs
Who: Joe Jacobs
"This is a show about trying to find inner piece while being a piece of shit"
Joe Jacobs starts his show by launching into a scathing rap cataloguing the many reasons not to be cheerful in modern society. It references Donald Trump, ISIS, climate change, austerity, toxic masculinity, Harvey Weinstein and the housing crisis. As soon as the backing track stops, his vitriolic verse instantly gives way to a mild-mannered speaking voice as he remarks "...yeah you probably think you made a booking error." The audience burst into laughter at the incongruity and the tone is set.
Jacobs explains that he is on a quest for emotional stability and clarity of mind in the context of growing world disorder. He is also attempting to reconcile various aspects of his own identity such as what class he belongs to, where he is sits on the 'geezer' to 'woke' spectrum, and being Jewish in an increasingly hostile world. All the while he is dealing with the bipolar nature of his twin stage personas: that of cock-sure braggadocios rapper and neurotic self-deprecating comedian. In truth it's a symbiosis that sets him apart.
As opposed to other comics who tend to use rap as a punchline in itself - either by doing it badly or in a wanky posh accent - Jacob is a skilled performer who obviously has years of experience under his belt. Humour is found in wit and verse, rather than belittling the medium. He is also adept at mimicking various styles - from gangsta to garage to grime - and that makes for a varied setlist with which to pepper his comedy prose. And pepper is right because Jacobs guards against relying too heavily on musical interludes.
Perhaps the most hard-hitting segment is on anti-semitism. Jacobs refers back to when Reggie Yates suggested it was a good thing that the likes of Wretch 32 and Skepta "weren't managed by some random fat Jewish guy". Jacobs expresses dismay at the statement before riffing on the increase in antisemitic rhetoric, its influence in the Labour Party, and where he fits into the various Jewish tropes. And then there's a zinger on how supposed Jewish control of the entertainment industry clearly hasn't trickled down to him.
That's not to say this is all intellectual fare. Just as Jacobs alternates from rhetoric to rap with the sound of a beat, he is able to switch from political to puerile just as quickly. One minute he is deconstructing the patriarchal concept of marriage, the next he is spitting rhymes to the strains of Grange Hill. Alas, an inherent issue with rap is that it is so fast-paced and dense that the audience may miss a gag or two, but that can't be helped and the hope is they catch enough. Jacobs ends with a positive mantra and farewell moment of zen.
You can buy tickets for Grimefulness here.