Best known for his appearances on Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo, as well as his trademark deadpan absurdist style, Milton Jones is, according to the revelations in Milton Impossible, not actually a stand-up comedian. At the opening of this performance, Jones reveals that he is, in fact, a spy with a story to tell. Over the hour that follows, Jones dives into the nitty-gritty of his life in espionage as well as the time he met the love of his life.
It is a real shame that Jones’ has chosen this spy schtick for his latest show because it really does not work. Part of the joy of watching his previous performances was the gentle absurdity of Jones’ persona combined with that of his material; they complemented one another whereas this additional layer of character chafes uncomfortably against both.
In fact, at times it feels as if Jones is attempting to be as absurd and bizarre as possible, which comes at the expense of his normally rapid-fire delivery as he meanders around the stage looking for props. The absolute nadir of which occurs when he stands on stage with national flags for a painful parody of international politics that draws heavily on stereotypes and lacks any nuance whatsoever.
The entire experience has the feeling of a show that is still in development and isn’t ready for primetime; worrying given that Jones already has dates planned for Milton Impossible elsewhere. If further refinement of the script is planned then the aforementioned flags part, a sequence involving teddy bears in jelly which terminates in a joke that isn’t even groanworthy, and a drawn-out gag around an interrogation should probably end up on the cutting room floor.
There is a good stand-up show underneath Milton Impossible somewhere. Some of the jokes are of the comic’s usual standard and Jones’ personal charisma and personality are occasionally allowed to peek through, but they’re obscured by bad prop decisions, a litany of unfunny jokes and a gimmick for gimmick’s sake.
Jones often receives credit for being one of the few working comics who doesn’t use bad language or lewd concepts in his work and there is some merit in that as he is usually a very funny man who proves that family-friendly comedy doesn’t have to be a bit rubbish; sadly, Milton Impossible not an example of this.