Travis Jay review – a loose, likable set about fathers and sons

The Guardian - Thu Jun 23 14:47

There’s a choice joke, midway through Travis Jay’s show, about therapists – whom Jay approaches, he tells us, with the same heavy scepticism he reserves for magicians. And yet what’s best about his show, Son of David, is all underpinned by the therapeutic mindset, as Jay recounts growing up and out of the shadow of his tough-guy dad. Jay père’s presence in the audience tonight gives that material added frisson – and certainly, his son performs out of his skin, pumping energy and bonhomie into the room as he delivers a likable if loose set on fatherhood, the filial bond and making his emotions’ acquaintance.

Some key routines may be familiar to those who saw Jay’s 2019 show Funny, Petty, Cool, in which he addressed – as he does here – his difficulty in crying when his beloved grandad died. But the routine is worth revisiting, as the bereft grandson, floodgates finally opened, releases sob after intemperate sob while transfixed by his reflection in the mirror. Jay fans will also recognise, in this “brand new show”, his routine about inadvertently leading a Black Lives Matter march, a version of which he has performed since at least 2018.

It finds him striking an amusing pose, mind you – that of the black man enthusiastically swept up in the narrative of his own persecution. That’s typical of a comic who takes racism seriously (particularly as a dad) but refuses to be oppressed by it. Witness the endearing levity of a set-piece in which alien black people pilot their flying saucer to Earth, and are taken to meet – there’s some fine mimicry here – Britain’s very underwhelming leader.

Via these routines, and tales of Jay’s married life, growing professional success, and relocation to the countryside, the show builds nicely to its reckoning with our host’s macho inheritance. Its closing stages, though, feel bolted on, as Jay abandons that theme in favour of two free-range sections about R Kelly and the mafia.

It is not the most robust construction, but Son of David is always enjoyable. Jay is an ebullient presence in the driver’s seat, and his takes on living up to his alpha dad are thoughtful and from the heart.