Griff Rhys Jones has been in the comedy business for more than three decades. After rising to fame the late 1970s alongside long-term comedy partner Mel Smith in the hit BBC TV show NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS, the comedian has founded TV production company Talkback Productions, appeared in a number of films, won two Olivier awards and hosted of IT’LL BE ALRIGHT ON THE NIGHT. Surprising then that it’s taken 37 years for Rhys Jones to devise his first solo stand-up show.
Prompted by the death of his comedy partner Smith in 2013, JONES & SMITH sees the 63-year old comedian take to the stage to share stories and anecdotes from his long career, including memories from his early work on NOT THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS to the duo’s guest appearance on LIVE AID in 1985.
As expected, a lot of the material particularly in the first half of the show, revolves around his 30-year friendship with Smith. Those old enough to remember the comedy duo will recall that Rhys Jones was always considered the straight “un-funny” one of the duo but in reality, he actually wrote most of their material.
In many ways, the comedy duo were polar opposites: Smith was a heavy drinker and gambler while Rhys Jones is teetotal and enjoys the quiet life. He talks openly and honestly about Smith’s hedonistic approach to life, such as how his prodigious drinking prompted him to give up alcohol, and how he spent pretty much all of his career answering questions such as “Where’s Mel?” or “Where’s the fat one?”. But the stories are told with affection and there’s no hint of bitterness. The two comics were friends, colleagues and business partners for more than 30 years and Rhys Jones clearly still feels the loss acutely.
The second half of the show sees the comedian muse on growing older and how easily life can pass us by if we’re not paying attention. He talks about how he’s taken up running in an attempt to “get fit” and a story about a colonoscopy check turns into a funny ‘duologue’ between Rhys Jones and his physician.
While Rhys Jones’ stories are certainly entertaining, the comedian does have a tendency to ramble and many of the sketches lack any urgency, particularly in the first half. The pace does pick back up in the second half though, with previously unseen footage of Smith and Jones’ 1997 pilot sketch show THREE FLIGHTS UP, standing out as one of the highlights.
Griff Rhys Jones: JONES & SMITH was reviewed at The Lowry on 19 November.