Dave Johns, the star of the critically-acclaimed Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, provides the audience with an extremely engaging and constantly hilarious journey from working as a jobbing stand-up for almost thirty years to appearing at Cannes.
Johns regales the audience with stories that illustrate the culture clash that occurs when a working-class Byker lad rubs shoulders with the likes of Spielberg and Emma Stone. His stories about Emma Stone supposedly singing to him and rambling to Spielberg about giants have the audience roaring with laughter.
Johns doesn’t feign false modesty about his rise to fame – he admits to enjoying the five-star treatment he received when the film was shown at various festivals. However, his jokes about class differences show that he hasn’t forgotten his roots. A fine example is his reaction to his new wife wanting to invite his ex and her partner round for dinner!
Johns’ thirty years experience as a comedian enables him to ad-lib when technical difficulties mean that his microphone stops working midway through a routine about David Bowie’s testicles. The resulting exchange between Johns and the embarrassed assistant trying to sort out the problem has the audience laughing at what could be an awkward incident that halts the flow of the show.
Johns also includes some serious aspects to his show, noting how a childhood theatre trip to see Death of a Salesman with a teacher encouraged him to become a comedian despite his severe stutter. He also emphasises the importance of a film like I, Daniel Blake in a society that is increasingly marginalising its poor, which receives a round of applause and murmurs of agreement.
Routines about Brexit receive a more muted response – whilst Johns’ French and Bulgarian-accented imitations of foreign festival guests asking why Britain left gain approving laughter, a remark about excluding people over fifty from voting in the referendum results in a silent response from the mostly middle-aged audience.
Despite this, I, Fillum Star, is a consistently hilarious Fringe debut for Johns, allowing him to not only share his experiences with fame to the Fringe, but also display his comedic skills as a stand-up.