Edinburgh Fringe: Joe Wenborne

Joe Wenborne: Fight Back at 50
Reviewed on August 25th, 2015
Gilded Balloon, Wee Room

by Bernie C. Byrnes

Joe Wenborne is a Radio Broadcaster, Raconteur, After Dinner Speaker and Author of new book Fight Back At 50. In this live version of his self-help book, Joe promises to take his audience on a journey looking at life after the skinny jeans by “the man who has been there, bought the t-shirt and gone back and exchanged it for an Extra Large.”

I have to say I was looking forward to this show – I was looking forward to the promise that it made that: “This is the show to prove that 50 is nothing to be scared of and that there’s lots to look forward to!” And it started well for me, I felt rather elated to observe that I seemed to be by far the youngest person in the audience, a fact that left me feeling sagacious, edgy and worried that in fact I looked exactly the same as everybody else and I was just lying to myself.

It was probably unfair of me to go at the end of week 3, the bleakest time at the Fringe, when even the tweenies are finding their energy and enthusiasm has all but run out, but advertising himself as “Disillusioned, slightly grumpy but determined to spill the beans on what it’s really like to take on the biggest comedy festival in the world without the aid of a safety net.” I felt that being ‘fringed-out’ would not be an issue for him.

Joe Wenborne is a likable man, at the start of the show he chats genially to his small audience: what are their hopes for the future? What have they achieved recently? It’s all very friendly banter – he’s obviously a confident public speaker. The actual show itself, however, is disappointing. A self-confessed “failed comedian”, East Ender Wenborne relates anecdotes from his life with few jokes and fewer laughs from the audience. The narrative wanders, with little reference to the theme. There are tales about his days as a stand-up, working as an extra (did you know those were his feet in the opening credits to ‘The Bill‘?) and about his attempts at jogging and keeping healthy (he seems lackluster about these, at best).

A long story about a trip to the seaside with his parents (including a frankly callous impression of his mother) makes the pair seem pathetic, and I’m not clear what point he was making: old people are easily impressed by small gestures? Old people are boring? Do all the fun stuff now, before you too get old? However, despite the implausible stories (he claims the show is “mostly true”) and the hackneyed jokes about making a noise as you sit down, Wenborne is clearly at ease on the stage. He has the well-practiced manner of someone who’s told these stories many times before, probably in the pub with his mates.

There seems to be little of the inspirational, motivational speech we were promised though – his main point seems to be that growing old is inevitable, so try to enjoy yourself.

Not exactly original.


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