It’s Jak Knight’s first time in the UK. It’s probably fair to say he’s struggling to figure out a connection with the crowd.
On this – the second of a five night Soho Theatre run – straight away he’s acknowledging his opening show was a challenge. He sets about teasing the majority of the room for what he reckons is the material they usually come here for. Is it the UK that’s different, or is it the audiences who tend to populate this venue? Discussing some pockets of the crowd tonight, he says “y’all looking for art? It ain’t coming” and at another point “this is the place where all the people who got bullied do their shows”. He’s somehow reached a conclusion that all European comedy has a narrative thread, and that that’s what the audiences want.
His taunting of his audience is all done with a cheeky grin, rather than in attack mode. It tends to get the bigger laughs. “I’m not that type of comedian that just hates on white people. Y’all know what you did, God’s gonna get y’all”. It’s his routines that aren’t hitting home, and it would probably be unfair to lay the blame solely on a gulf between audience and comedian sensibilities. From material about transgender people to the difference between dating black women and white women, about 50% of the time you forgive Knight for pushing at the boundaries of what’s acceptable because he’s having fun as he delivers it, but (as also with his short section on repatriation of items from British museums) his material often isn’t bringing anything new to the table. There are certainly exceptions though: his routines on the male G-spot and on black music encouraging drug use amongst young white audiences both deserve far more than this audience is willing to give them. There’s also a pretty great story about the time his mother met 2Pac that is deservedly well received.
Towards the end, it seems as though he’s making progress. “I think I figured this out. I need to riff more.” The audience isn’t disagreeing. It’s been a rough journey so far, but Knight is finding his feet in London.
Mark Muldoon @muldoon