Review: Jon Richardson – Don't Happy, Be Worry

Tuesday, November 23 2010

You want laughter from the belly and the brain? Try the latest show by young grump Jon Richardson, writes Ben Clover.

To call this show a rueful meditation on what it means to be happy would be inaccurate. It’s Jon Richardson relating a series of embarrassing anecdotes that mostly reflect poorly on him and a Premiership footballer mutilation fantasy that doesn’t.

The reworked theme from the Bobby McFerrin song lets him cheerfully pace through material about worrying getting in the way of happiness. And he does seem to be worry. He’s genuinely tortured that the mic cable is knotted messily on the floor or that the table isn’t flush with the stage (“it’s called a right angle for a reason” he mutters).

Although obviously an accomplished performer I don’t think he’s faking it when he can’t help but follow an unpalatable line of thought as it occurs to him (“It‘s not ideal but it is what I think“).

And he does imply that you can choose whether to be happy or not. The tramp he saw singing the title song outside a supermarket seemed to be saying “I’ve chosen to enjoy the life I have”. “Yes, and you‘ve overdone it,” Richardson muses, wondering if it’s a marketing exercise for the gaining of a few quid.

Maybe the clue is in the song before the intro music, Garbage’s 90s almost-classic Only Happy When it Rains. Lots of comics fear happiness will kill the funniness but that’s not happened to the Swindon-based 28-year-old.

DHBW is one of the most assured and consistently enjoyable shows I’ve seen in years. The laughs are constant and from the belly as much as the brain. There are long, short, clever, silly, observational and surreal gags delivered in a likeable patter. And “patter” is meant a compliment. It connotes being at ease, professionalism and working at a certain pace. It maybe suggests glibness as well, but he’s not that, he's too worried and sometimes too heartfelt, despite all the confidence.

Even the weirder bits of audience interaction come off. The crowd is still eating out of his hand when he’s doubted their fertility or reacted testily to a Greek chorus in the second row reciting the rhyme about Henry VIII’s wives.

My only quibble is with the poster, where he looks like a caricature of each of the Miliband brothers after the Labour leadership result came through. He is also too harsh about the title song whose lyrics he quotes unfairly and out of context. Yes, Bobby McFerrin does sing: “Cause when you worry, Your face will frown, And that will bring everybody down,” for which Richardson takes him to task as selfish.

But this is hardly fair when you consider the McFerrin was probably thinking of others (“everybody”) rather than just himself. And just one verse earlier he has sung “here I give you my phone number, when you worry call me I make you happy”. A man who has offered someone a bespoke anytime counselling service in the days before mobile phones deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, an excellent show.


Click here for details on the rest of Jon Richardson's run at Soho Theatre.


November 26 2010, 3.38pm
Completely agree with the ;belly and the brain' aspect of Richardson's comedy. Never tire of seeing his comedy. I saw this show in Edinburgh this year, check out my review here:

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