Jack Dee: Off the Telly, Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline ****
Never one for unnecessary excitement, Jack Dee's cliffhanger anecdote to ensure the crowd returned for the second half of this Dunfermline show was the tale of him having an orthopaedic mattress delivered. And when the item and his routine eventually arrived, it prompted a self-degrading confession that was the essence of a grumpy, middle-aged man struggling to retain his dignity.
The famously glum curmudgeon's show title seems to have a couple of meanings. Firstly, Dee is now free to go out and perform a tour that was originally set for 2020, complete with some very funny Covid grumbles and mutterings about the supposed Blitz spirit that got us through lockdown. Also, he's forthright and deliciously mean-spirited about the programmes that have him haranguing the television, with one particularly gratuitous impression of bystanders appearing back of shot on the Antiques Roadshow viciously hilarious. And those two strands come together in his avowed reluctance to do benefit shows such as Celebrity Bake-Off, his altruism invariably accompanied by sulking and cynicism about the motives of the enterprise.
A couple of routines, about him rejecting an offer of second-hand underwear at a charity shop and reducing a preachy child to tears on public transport were too heavily contrived and unbelievable to satisfy.
Yet for the most part, Dee has his put-upon, misanthropic persona down absolutely pat. Almost every lash-out at society and his circumstances is a swing and a miss, whereupon he punches himself in the face, and there are some rather out-of-character musings on changes to the James Bond franchise that might bring it boringly up to date, justified by the sharpness of the observations.
His encore was unexpected low-key and silly, but revealed another string to his bow, reminiscent of John Hegley and perhaps even Billy Bragg – a lovely coda to an entertaining evening.