Jeremy Hardy at Leeds City Varieties – Reviewed

I really do not know where to begin with this review. Let me start by saying that Jeremy Hardy is a very good comedian.

I know this because of the laughter emanating from the members of the audience, especially the woman sitting next to me who was the dream of all funnymen, in that she had an earsplitting laugh which she exercised after every word he said. The part of the evening which he devoted to bemoaning the fact that he is getting old and the problems in the ageing process was funny, even though I am twelve years his senior and know that he still has a lot to learn about bodily and mental disintegration. His positivity on the quality of life which we all enjoy when compared to that which our parents, which would probably be your grandparents, had to endure was refreshing and again pretty funny. The part of the act which I could not find in the least bit amusing was the preachy bit.

The show was obviously going to have a left wing political bias because that is what he believes in, an impression reinforced by the two men selling copies of ‘Socialist Worker’ outside the theatre. I have no great problem with this per se, but it was the patronising air with which it was delivered. It is difficult for me to identify with anyone who is committed to an ideology, whether political or religious, as it leads to narrow mindedness and, when presented with a fact, they will work out how it fits into their dogma rather than analysing it at face value and approaching it with an open mind. I don’t propose to delve too deeply into this part of the show as it would get too political, but there were two things which I found very offensive, and not in a thought-provoking sense:

First was the way that, after expounding his political views, he kept saying that he didn’t hold it against people who didn’t agree with his point of view but in a tone which implied that it was OK to be misguided and delusional. The second point was in his railing against people who were anti-refugee. Well, Mr Hardy, you were certainly in the wrong city to toss that argument into the mix. I was born in 1949 and brought up in inner city Leeds, and a lot of the kids I knew were Jewish, as were most of my father’s friends and associates who had fled the pogroms of Russia and Eastern European at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. We also took in a lot of Poles escaping the Nazi occupation in the 1930s and who were the first to volunteer to fly with the RAF when war broke out. When I was in primary school in 1956 we had a young girl join the class whose parents had fled the Hungarian uprising. I am so proud to hail from this City which has had such an exemplary record of welcoming people in their hour of need and who have gone on to play a major part in its development over the past century, so don’t come slagging us off without doing your homework first.

You may have realised that I am fiercely proud of my City.

Hardy’s two betes noir seem to be Richard Branson and James Dyson, who have committed the cardinal sin of being rich and successful. Ignore the number of people they have employed over the years and the tax they have paid; the Government income from the sales of the ‘Tubular Bells’ album by Mike Oldfield alone probably eclipses Mr Hardy’s lifetime contribution. By an odd coincidence I heard Richard Branson being interviewed by Chris Evans this morning and it came to light that the staff at Virgin Atlantic Headquarters are given unlimited leave entitlement which they can take any time without permission so long as they do not cause their colleagues extra work. I doubt that even in his wildest dreams Arthur Scargill would have dared to ask for that.

In conclusion I enjoyed the comedy but resented being lectured to and patronised.


Editor’s note: It seems Mr Hardy thought he could get away with a generic approach to his audiences, not bothering to do his research and tailor his performance – and thereby his respect – to those who had paid to listen to him.

Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living.  He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds.  He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.

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