Jonny Pelham @ Just the Tonic, The Caves
An unflinching tale of abuse and recovery which will hopefully start much-needed conversations
The abuse Jonny Pelham suffered is in no way a secret to be revealed during the course of Off Limits; it’s dropped as a punchline five minutes in. And although Pelham’s childhood experience is the catalyst for the show, it’s more of a redemptive piece on how to move on after such a traumatic event.
Detailing his coping strategies since childhood (constantly imagining himself as a pirate), and discovering that once he lost his V-card, he REALLY loved sex, Pelham never fails to construct jokes from a subject rarely joked about.
The language Pelham uses to joke about his trauma is far from restrained. It’s crude and bawdy and seems dissonant against the sensitive topic being discussed. In some ways, it feels cathartic that Pelham is using such a blunt, visceral lexicon. If anything, it makes his show more accessible than Richard Gadd’s award-winning show on a similar topic; you can imagine Pelham taking a tight five minute set from Off Limits to a rowdy comedy club on a Friday night. And, if this does mean more people open up about similar trauma, he has worthily started the discussion.
However, the laddy tone seems to hide the genuine thoughtfulness of Off Limits. The dick-jokes wear thin, and even his talk of therapy and love that should feel deep and meaningful feel shallower as a result. Despite this, Pelham proves himself to be a powerful comic who is more than entitled to tell his story however the hell he likes.
Jonny Pelham: Off Limits, Just the Tonic @ The Caves (Just Out of the Box), until 25 Aug, 3.20pm, £5-£7.50/PWYW