Throughout the past two years I have been a regular viewer of Jimmy Carr’s YouTube channel. He has uploaded many full-length videos of his old standup specials, as well as dozens of shorter compilation videos. He even did a quiz to entertain those trapped in lockdown, although this content has subsequently faded from prominence, condensed into a few large weekly compilations.
Late last year, he announced that after getting by for so long by endlessly rehashing old material, he was finally releasing a new show, albeit not on YouTube. His Dark Material premiered on Christmas Day.
There are two segments which focus on the events of the past two years, but these are relatively brief and the majority of the material is interchangeable with what one comes to expect from all his other concerts – I even caught a few classic lines being reused.
His earlier shows primarily used a static multi-camera format, with occasional panning to keep up with him as he walks about the stage or to focus on a heckling audience member. His later output features much greater use of swooping shots from behind while he’s standing still, as well as over the audience. This can be a little surreal at times, giving the impression that one is watching a film (perhaps a biopic) rather than a live event. It also, unfortunately, highlights the increasing sagginess of Carr’s face.
A consequence of watching so many compilations of much older material is that one develops a mental cache of a celebrity’s face, hair, voice and mannerisms that averages out as being a few years into the past, which then makes it a shock to see how they’ve changed when new material finally arrives. The problem is exacerbated if the “new” material is actually delayed for a long time. I have discussed this before in relation to ‘Cats Does Countdown: Throughout 2020 and into 2021 the programming still consisted wholly of holdovers from 2019, and it was quite jarring when post-COVID footage (only four episodes so far) finally arrived showing Sean Lock‘s deathly pallor, Katherine Ryan’s increased girth and, of course, Carr’s hair transplant (which he got after the Lockdown quiz and laughs at in this special).
Later in the special Carr pondered the passing of the ages in a different way – by lecturing to the younger members of the audience about how social interaction, telephony and taxi rides used to work in the 1990s. Here I must digress into a rant about a common trend I have witnessed among comedians and other social commentators – premature declarations of obsolescence. As someone born in the cusp of generations Y and Z (sometimes called a “Zillennial”), I will say for the record that well into the noughties I was playing and recording cassettes and VHS tapes (many of which I still have). I also operated fax machines a few times and stored some school projects on diskettes. Even restricting to the past five years I have regularly sent and received paper letters (both typed and handwritten), paid for things in cash, driven a car with hand-wound rear windows and made calls on public payphones. On at least two occasions I have ridden on trains pulled by steam locomotives. The notion pushed by so many talking heads that all of these things are entirely alien to anyone born after about 1995 has never quite rung true to me.