can’t sell out. ‘I don’t say anything of importance — it’s not like I want to change the world with my comedy,’ says Dec.
As for suburban subversion, well hardly. Look at him. he wears bespoke suits run up by a sober London tailor. You could take him home to meet your mother, even your grandmother. ‘He seems like a nice man,’ they might say, which is exactly what must happen if the new series is to be the mass-market success [TV ratings require. This isn’t late-night, cult TV — Jack Dee’s show will be beaming into the homes of people who wouldn’t know alternative comedy if it jumped up and bit them on the Bottom.
‘If it was going to happen to anyone it was going to happen to me,’ says Dee of his lTV series. ‘l’m more earmarked for the mainstream than most of the stand-ups from my comedy background. The mainstream is talked about as a no-no, but that’s rubbish and I don’t regard it as the enemy. It’s challenging to reach out to a group that doesn’t share your comedy shorthand, that don’t all know who The Young Ones were.’
Do the famously well-cut suits endear him to that kind of audience before he even tells a joke?
‘The thing about the suit is it makes you immediately look like you mean business,’ he says. ‘It shows a certain amount of polish and one of the things about the suit is it doesn’t alienate people. It’s like I’m owning up to the fact that I’m an adult. lfl came on in a leather jacket andjeans I would immediately switch off half the audience. I’m not a rebel, it’s not about trying to drop out — it’s trying to hang in at any cost.’
‘The mainstream is talked about as a name, but that’s rubbish and I don’t regard it as the enemy. it’s challenging to reach out to a group that doesn’t share your comedy shorthand, that don’t all know who The Young Ones were.’
The likes of Rik Mayall, French and Saunders, and Stephen Fry have gravitated towards the BBC. ﬁtting in with the slightly bumbling. sketch-based approach to comedy and a long-established tradition stretching back to Beyond The Fringe. Dee and the next wave of stand-ups have seemed more in tune with Channel 4’s trendy, street-wise image — here was a station where independent production companies were launched by mouthy Cockneys with attitude who pitched ideas and pocketed most of the loot when the show was commissioned.
The move to ITV is the first sign of this pushy self-belief paying off big time, as Dee’s Svengali-like manager Addison Cresswell lines his boy up with ever bigger purses. much like a boxing promoter. Cresswell also steers the careers of comedians Lee Evans — a .formcr boxer — and Jo Brand, but Dee remains the stable‘s prize fighter. It’s all very late—80$, but Cresswell, who Dee describes as a ‘very go- ahead bloke’, shows no sign of heading for a Buddhist retreat while there’s still television cash to be earned. It’s an indication of how comedy and business are linked that Dee and his manager are partners in the Open Mike TV
production company which recently diversiﬁed into advertisements for John Smith’s ‘widget’ bitter. starring Dee and a bunch of penguins.
Dee’s roots are ordinary, middle-class, very southern English and very suburban. A bit like his comedy. really. Now he will be entertaining the same people whose dull lives he has made a living satirising. In some ways he is becoming one of them. with much of the material from the last tour centring around the usual thirtysomething concerns of house-buying. baby-rearing and DIY. These are all activities Dee would have taken great delight in rubbishing a few years ago and. to some extent, still does. It’s just that as a home-owning father with more than a passing interest in power tools, he is now prepared to make himself the butt of more jokes.
The grumpy persona act was developed almost by accident. when Dee was seriously considering quitting stand-up. Thoroughly cheesed~off with comedy, he discovered his couldn’t-care-less performances seemed to be
JACK DEE FEATURE
Jack Dee: the Vlctor Meldrew ot stand-up
generating more laughs than the like-me act Dee had tried to sell to audiences on London’s comedy circuit. Several years on, he has developed a strange dual personality on stage where the scowling, suit-wearing Mr Dee is making fun of the more vulnerable happy Jack. He has almost become a one-man double act.
‘l’m starting to realise the stuffthat continues to work best is where I’m the platform for ajoke and then I end up with egg on my face,‘ says Dee. ‘lt’s a play on status. I present myself as this haughty, in-control guy and then all of a sudden I stick a pin in it. One of the reasons I did the ads was that l was in danger of having the whole booted and suited image taken too seriously. I wanted to point out that this was a joke all along. Once I’d done the ads. people realised I wanted to mess around.’
Only this time, he’s hoping to do his messing before ten million viewers on prime time television.
Jack Dee 's Saturday Night starts on Saturday 9 December at 9pm on Scottish.
The List l-l4 Dec 1995 7