Nine dates into his first UK tour in a long while, Jason Cook had his ‘best yet’ night on his native Tyneside.
And although a double handful of dates remain, I’m betting that as far as the popular comic is concerned, none of them will top the sold out gig at The Stand Newcastle on Tuesday.
This was a special one for the 41-year-old, who has recently moved back to Newcastle after more than a decade in the north west.
Not only was he clearly thrilled to have a jam-packed crowd in front of him, Jason also revelled in the presence of his family - particularly his sister who was as mortified to hear explicit details of her brother’s sex life as he was delighted to tell her. We also heard tales of his uncle’s supportive attitude to a teenage Jason’s experimental phase. I can’t be sure, but I got the feeling much of this material was for Geordie ears only, which is always a nice treat.
Back on the stand up circuit after his two-series stint writing and starring in the BBC2 sitcom that depicted his experiences growing up in Hebburn, Jason - now a father as well as a well-trained husband of 10 years standing and the face of Jacob’s Crackers - freely admits to being a ‘broken’ man - hence the title of the show.
The pressure which came built in with the making of Hebburn left him deprived, suffering from a heart condition and ultimately breaking down.
Possibly not the most obvious material when you’re playing for laughs.
But as fans of his would expect, the seasoned comic once again displayed his knack for tugging at heartstrings while simultaneously tickling funny bones throughout.
A master of intertwining the heart strings with the funny bone, with shows about his late father’s ill health and his own mortality, Geordie Jason Cook returns to the Fringe this year to talk about a calamity all of his own making. Cook’s sitcom Hebburn is both the reason he has been away from the Fringe for a while and the reason for his latest travails. Lack of sleep, a heart condition and a good old-fashioned breakdown all result from a punishing schedule.
This is no industry odyssey though, as Hebburn is just one of a number of things that have “broken” him. Cook’s definition of damage includes being cut down to size by his wife and being inexplicably spurned by his daughter. But unlike previous shows, this one begins, middles and ends happily.
“So regional, so lazy, so racist” is how Cook himself characterises his opening banter. But, in truth, it’s so joyous and affectionate too. Meanwhile, his ability to cope with the most bizarre, cackling laughter from one audience member tonight was truly admirable and further helped him earn his spurs for inclusiveness.
Cook is always looking on the bright side. A deconstruction of the various therapists he has to coax him away from his stress-inducing habits defines this; he chooses the therapist who can play a joke on him before he can play one on them.
His closing family holiday routine picks up from a slight lull and wraps up the inherent tension between attempted relaxation and his pursuit of a laugh. Long may he follow that quest.
A perfectly-pitched homecoming, which he couldn’t have enjoyed more. It’s nice to have him back.