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Joe Jacobs: Ripe

at Sweet Grassmarket

* * * * -

Hip-hop stand-up finds a fruit analogy for human life

Image of Joe Jacobs: Ripe
Note: This review is from the 2017 Fringe

In the not-at-all hip-hop surrounds of a hotel conference room by the Scottish Parliament, you’ll find hip-hop stand-up Joe Jacobs, a sort of introspective Jewish Mike Skinner with jokes. 

Using an ordinary banana as an analogy, he considers the human lifespan. Somewhere between our freshly-picked green stage and turning into the black, unidentifiable mush in the fruit bowl, we hit our ripest. But do we know when that is?

Jacobs reflects on what childhood crazes like pogs, push-pops and footy stickers teach us about capitalism – the hard lessons of our “green” phase. He examines the mid-life pressures that hit us all – the kids, the jobs – and the effort of keeping ourselves “ripe” through gym routines and other age-defying activity.

It’s not your standard observational hour though. His hip-hop, or Jew Grime, as he calls it, breaks it up nicely. Alternating the rhymes and the stand-up keeps the hour moving along. His Garage MC having a panic attack is fantastic, and he shows what might happen if hip-hop artists rapped about the mental health problems they’re covering up with weed-smoking and gangster posturing.

It all comes with an edge of existential sorrow. Mental health talk is never far away and he makes much of his Jewishness and its attendant angst. That edge doesn’t just stay on the stage either. There’s a slight air of menace to his crowd work, and the piercing stare that comes with it, which could be uncomfortable in a sparse crowd. His respectful feminism-friendly catcalls are good but still come across a bit geezer. Were this in an uptown pub, where it might be better suited, it could no doubt kick off if the crowd cut up awkward.

With Ripe, Jacobs has crafted a well-balanced, self-contained hour, whose hip-hop and stand-up elements complement each other well. Tension is diffused with regular silliness, including a costumed closer, and it manages, just, to teeter up to a few stylistic and topical edges without falling off.   

/ @peaky76


Robert is the Managing Editor of The Wee Review and has been writing for the site since early 2014. Previously, he was manager of the Yorkshire arts website, digyorkshire. He pays bills by working for a palliative care charity and lives in Edinburgh.

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