At once I’m struck with a horrible sinking feeling. I’m unfamiliar with Rhys James, and as he strides out I can’t help but fixate on the fact he looks like one of those ghastly American vine star teenagers with names like Colby Bung and Jed Klonk. As things proceed it’s clear he’s not one, but rather a kind of perfect distillation of the 90’s kid. A sort of crystalization of all the good things about the millennial generation, he’s one of the most thoroughly modern comedians I’ve ever seen
In fact, it seems the word ‘millennial’ is written above James in purple fire. It wreathes everything. There’s slick integration of voice-over and music, he’s dressed like your own actual teenage son, yes yours. It’s even reflected in his attention-deficit-delivery as he darts about, radiating energy. He harnesses it admirably, making hilarious use of rapid changes in facial expression, and casting his gaze over the whole audience so as to keep up a rapport.
There’s callbacks and references to earlier in the show, planted like little Easter eggs throughout, in the same way you’d find them in the videogames he grew up on. They’re not necessary, but it’s nice they’re there. It’s clear he has an excellent understanding of show structure, and in general leaves an audience feeling he’s a commanding presence despite looking like someone who’d exist to get bullied on Hollyoaks. The level of professional control he exerts is really quite admirable.
He doesn’t start great, and for five or so minutes I felt sure I was going to hate it, but he really won me over. There’s some unoriginal jokes, and a smattering of tiresome observational material, but even the bad stuff is delivered like by someone twice James’ age. I’d say he’s not at the top of his game here, but has some truly unique potential. Definitely one to watch. I get the impression he’ll only get better, and I did not think I would be saying that.