Milton Jones lion-whisperer reviewed in Phantom TollboothMore ingenious one-liners from the man with more grandfathers than tropical shirts.

Studio:    Pozzitive Television
Time:      68 Minutes
Region: 2

There is no one quite like Milton Jones. The pace of his one-liners, combined with the absurd humour that he accentuates with his tropical shirts, wild eyes and roughed-up hair, makes him one of Britain’s most original, distinctive and popular comedians.

He employs a little observation, but it is usually there to serve the needs of wordplay (“My uncle was a taxi driver... he left home without any indication”).

Most of his puns are wildly inventive, entertaining and lead to head-shaking in a bemused “Wherever did that one come from?” sort of way. But Jones’ strength is also his weakness: to pack them into an hour with no change would lead to RSI of the mouth muscles, followed by a processing overload in the brain.

Like Tim Vine, who also manufactures clean one-liners at the rate of Corn Flakes packets coming out of a Kellogg’s factory, he has to add visual gags to keep up the momentum. Unlike Vine, he doesn’t sing (and Jones may well say that is a good thing).

Where Jones adds his variety in this tour is firstly to play his own grandfather. It gives him the chance to wheel on a trolley of props (he makes great play with an old person’s view of a mobile phone). He also uses this slot to bring out a little book of time, setting off a slew of superb jokes that begin with dates. His grandfather (or one of them) gives the DVD its title. Jones tells us early on that the old man eventually achieved his ambition to become a lion whisperer – just before he died. He adds “My other grandfather can’t do what he used to, bless him – bomb the Japanese. My other grandfather....” and on he goes with multiple antecedents.

Jones takes great delight in twisting our expectations, and sometimes the longest pauses are because he lets our minds race in the vain hope of guessing where the punch-line is going to come from (“I have my own private jet... the rest of the Jacuzzi belongs to my Mum.”)

There are several running gags, starting with the one about when he had shampoo thrown at him (”…turned out it was real poo”) and he spaces them beautifully for maximum surprise effect.

After lauding the benefits of new technology, he wheels on an overhead projector and it is these slides that give some of the sharpest wit of the show.

With a live audience, there is always an element of risk. I have seen him interact with a crowd, take in someone’s details and come back later with several witty jokes that he has made up while performing – it is as if he can turn his brain into a computer with split drives: one to frantically search for alternate meanings to key words, while the other carries on seamlessly. While he tries that here, the DVD doesn’t show the extent of what he can do and sometimes he doesn’t really try. Maybe it is the stress of recording.

There is one very successful interaction (“I was bullied…”) that depends on the audience making the right responses several times in a row, and he builds on jokes a few times, adding extra punchlines to what originally look like one-liners.

There seems to be a lot of pressure on successful comedians to put out a DVD at the end of every year. This means a constant stream of new material – especially when a lot of product is seen on TV and so cannot always be used. As a result, it is hard to keep up the quality and impact. On DVD, the element of surprise can disappear, subsequent plays losing the power of jokes that depend on unexpected punchlines, but there is a lot of sheer wit here that survives repeated plays well, especially the overhead slides and the power of running gags.

Altogether, this extras-free disc is a fine record of Milton Jones doing what he does best: outrageously creative wordplay, surreal wit and some hilarious visual gags.


Derek Walker