Jonny and the Baptists – Edinburgh Festival review

Not so much a comedy act as Mumford and Sons fronted by Boris Johnson, says Paul Fleckney

Jonny_and_the_Baptists1Sometimes as a reviewer you feel like a right stick in the mud, the only person in the room who is completely unmoved while everyone else is having a great time. That’s exactly what happened while watching Jonny and the Baptists.

I just don’t understand why crowds become so easily pleased as soon as someone picks up a guitar. People lose their minds. Since when did a rhyme become an adequate replacement for a joke? Jonny and the Baptists sure know how to entertain, but as far as I can see, they’re not a comedy act. Masters of the art such as Bill Bailey and Flight of the Conchords load their songs with jokes, and pastiche musical genres as well. Tim Minchin and Bo Burnham are hardened gagsmiths too, while Hans Teeuwen deploys absurdism and Abandoman gives you the thrill of improv (and still somehow manages to think up punchlines). Jonny and the Baptists are Mumford and Sons fronted by Boris Johnson.

There were plenty of aspects that I enjoyed – their choice of subjects for their songs is interesting and fun (except for Upper Middle-Class Gangsters, which is hack), and often it’s playfully satirical on subjects like the NHS, gay people giving blood and the library cuts. There’s also a recurring theme of a man called Robert who is the new beau of frontman Jonny Donahoe’s ex-girlfriend. The subject of Robert hijacks a few songs, and Donahoe’s anger is funny in itself. The oddest song of theirs – a creepy ditty about Quentin Blake – was the only one to make me laugh, and more of that originality is what’s required. Donahoe throws himself into each song and the business of entertainment, bumbling over chairs to speak to people and keeping the energy up. He’s a little clumsy, but endearingly so, and by his “Baptists” (Paddy Gervers and Amy Butterwoth on guitar and violin respectively) are talented and versatile musicians.

So the room was entertained and people had a good night out, but you could say that about going to the bingo or One Direction concert. I wanted to laugh, and ultimately I didn’t.

2 stars

Jonny and the Baptists are on at 9.10pm at the Underbelly
Review written by Paul Fleckney

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