Robert Newman: The Dependence Day Video (1994)


Rewatched Jan 22, 2013

Ohhh … god… I’d forgotten quite how sexy Rob Newman was. That may or may not account for an extra half star here but I found this old stand up show very funny regardless.Funnier than when I first watched it; I can’t remember exactly how or when. I never owned a copy, but as it started I remembered some occasion of seeing it, young and nervous.
The material at the start about coke, as I recall, seemed to make him detached from a 90’s sixth form and student audience – lifestyles of the slightly rich and famous- but the drug having since become ubiquitous and me now being in my mid 30’s and having once lived with someone who did a fair bit of the stuff, this time I was laughing with him and not feeling talked down to.The pop culture topics were a great little time capsule. He was off target with some meh material about Blur and the audience let him know in no uncertain terms, but he was absolutely fucking spot on about David Bowie, with an impression of the Thin White Duke discussing the release of a multimedia CD-ROM that was actually a bunch of old computer games… three years before the Earthling album. Arguably this means the show is slightly dated, but I love it partly because it’s of its time, of my time, and I’ve always been fond of media that make me work for references from other eras as well.
And Newman does throw in just enough long words to keep the likes of me happy – but he really takes the piss out of himself for it too; the only way to do it, really.I was constantly reminded of Chris Addison, one of my favourite current comedians, in the intelligent mix of observational and slightly political material. But where Addison is always a little embarrassed and awkward, even admitting to being bad in bed, Newman hardly ever apologises for himself, has an obvious physical confidence (which he can also use to be completely silly) and is exactly filthy enough. To watch this earlier show after Chris Addison is like having been a teenager with a crush on a cute, clever very geeky boy … then this moody leader of the pack roars up, gets you very very hot under the collar and he can do all the same stuff as the cute geek, with more style.
Newman is a clever chap who likes to show it but there’s good solid comedy with universal appeal here too, especially a longish section in the middle about calling the emergency services.
A lot of comedians make me switch off with aggressive material about their relationships but Newman got me on side immediately with a bit starting “people always think you want to hear bad things about your ex… but no, you’re in mourning for fuck’s sake” (may be a slight paraphrase, but it’s something I’ve almost always agreed with). He was quite even-handed in showing up the faults of himself and an ex, when too many comedians resort to either slagging someone else off in very hostile fashion or drowning themselves in deep self-deprecation.
And, it really couldn’t have been better: he ended with one piece of character comedy, the pervy, smoking-jacketed, smoky-voiced debauchee Jarvis (not to be confused with Mr Cocker), who was probably my favourite thing from all of 1990’s telly. The Brylcreemed hair was a little offputting this time but my sense of humour has evidently got much sicker in the past 15+ years as I had none of the old hesitation or saying to myself “careful now”, and was laughing full-throatedly at a few things the audience hardly dared giggle at.
A very favourable Amazon review makes some interesting comments about Newman’s challenge to the sterile PC nature of early 90’s alternative comedy. In retrospect it was one I very much approve of, not the lazy retrosexism of Loaded lad culture, but something sexier and kinkier and darker and perhaps implicitly more egalitarian than that.I am rather out of touch with what’s on TV these days, but it surprises me that shows like The Mary Whitehouse Experience aren’t becoming enshrined as classics in the manner of only slightly older sketch comedy … though perhaps given that the generation who grew up watching them is just starting to have significant influence in the media, perhaps in ten years time they will be.
LOOK! Archived music press have Rob Newman’s Rebellious Jukebox interview from 1994! Fangirl squee echoes down two decades…   Oh, and Vanishing Point became one of my favourite songs of 2009 after a very hot man* recommended Technique as one of the best New Order albums. It’s still the one I like most.
* Not Rob Newman himself, because I only ever spoke to him once very briefly at a pub gathering after a gig in around 2001 when I was feeling too ill and was still too shy to appreciate the opportunity.
And whyyyyyy is the line spacing fucked in this post? There is a limit to how many times I will try and sort it out, even if the post is about Rob Newman.

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