Jazz Emu review – a joyful hour with a delusional musical star

Soho theatre, London
With his Scandi-nowhere accent and cool-dude aspirations, Archie Henderson’s comic character is improbable, clever and very funny

‘I’m in control,” sings Jazz Emu, while the routine (synth noodling, cool funk stylings, malfunctioning robot helmet) collapses around him. The gag could hardly be sillier, which sets us up nicely for this joke-packed hour from the eccentric musical comic. Jazz is an electro-funk colossus, in his own estimation, a DIY Thin White Duke on synth-clarinet and microwave meals. We find him, alas, in the doldrums, after an anti-goblin slur at a recent Helsinki gig went viral. Tonight, he makes his pitch for redemption, aiming to clear his name and win our hearts before his angry dad pulls the plug on his musical career.

Jazz Emu.
Self-image is forever undermined by bathetic reality … Jazz Emu. Photograph: Reiff Gaskell

It’s an improbable set-up, and Jazz, with his marionette walk and Scandi-nowhere accent, is more cartoon than 3D character. But that’s all part of the fun here, as creator Archie Henderson builds his alter-ego’s ridiculous world, and populates it densely with audio, visual and lyrical laughs. As a technological feat alone it’s impressive, as Jazz’s videos, microphone trickery and his FaceTime calls with dad all interact. But it’s consistently funny, too, in that space where self-image is forever undermined by bathetic reality. Exhibit A: the see-through song and video about Jazz supposedly living in Miami.

But he’s got more than one way to make us laugh, whether that’s with a track about the quirks of the English language (“what the fough is ough with that?!”), a twisted detour into the secret history of Snap, Crackle and Pop, or a choice visual gag about Captcha security questions online. There’s a happy sense here of a surfeit of ideas, and a joy – shared with the audience – at bringing this delusional funk wannabe daftly to life.

Contributor

Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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