Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs brought their first full-length show Jack & Dean & Friends Live to Soho Theatre. TenEighty headed down to their show on 20 July to find out if the YouTube duo could translate their sketch-based comedy to stage.
It seemed fitting that on the opening night of Jack & Dean & Friends Live, Monty Python performed its last ever show on the other side of London. As faces of comedy’s past said goodbye, two promising faces of its future said hello.
Their videos have millions of views (and feature more than a few Python comparisons) but this run of shows are Jack and Dean’s first proper foray into live comedy, a step that many comedians have struggled with. Could our favourite comedy duo make Jack and Dean work onstage? As it happens, yes.
— TenEighty UK (@TenEightyUK) July 20, 2014
Certain scenes are innately funny or just pure genius. These include an argument over who was the ‘bread’ and who was the ‘butter’ in ‘bread and butter’, cavemen parading around on stage and a interactive heartfelt sketch. The last of which unexpectedly, yet successfully, changed the tone of the night to reveal a more tender side to the jokers. You could call them Jokers With Heart. See what we did there?
While isolated parts of the set didn’t show off the pair’s comedic prowess as well as they could have, Dean’s script problems were an amusing highlight – with potential to be much stronger.
That said, what was consistent throughout was their natural charm and chemistry. At times, it felt as if they were chatting away between themselves, often running off on tangents. When the majority of a show is scripted, mastering this natural flow is a game-changer – and they’ve managed it. All of Dean’s attempts to upstage or wind up Jack felt spontaneous, even after it became clear it was a running theme throughout, culminating in a shocking conclusion towards the end of the show.
In a special guest appearance, Daniel J Layton balanced being a strong on-stage presence without detracting from Jack and Dean marvellously. One sketch involving Daniel saw him portraying Dean, under his direction, much to the frustration of Jack. Yeah, it sounds bizarre, but it’s hard to describe without spoiling it. It was amazing and Daniel excelled, trust us.
Considering the sheer size of Jack and Dean’s online audience, Soho Theatre was an interesting choice of venue. The room the show took place in was relatively small, comfortably fitting 100 – 150 seats. The duo could have gone for a far bigger venue, but this choice made the whole experience feel down-to-earth and more personal.
This atmosphere allowed for audience participation, too, with Jack and Dean not only inviting people on stage but entering the crowd on multiple occasions. One sketch even took place entirely in the audience. It was these elements that really made the experience something special. Worryingly, these are the bits that could get lost when transferring the show to Summer in the City and Reading and Leeds Festivals.
The show ended with a performance of Consent, instantly changing the mood within the room. Suddenly the laid-back atmosphere with sporadic bursts of laughter became animated and was a chance for the audience to rock out. Daniel Dobbs and Carlos Montero joined the duo on stage, playing guitars and encouraging the audience to sing and dance along. It was bizarre, but it worked – and acted as a gentle reminder of why everyone was there: for Jack and Dean, the YouTube stars who are now branching out and trying new things.
And that’s the key here, it was something new. Different from their videos, but still very much them.
We caught up with Jack after the show, and he reminded us that it was only the second date they’d performed. “I’m very happy with [the show], I came off stage without anything negative sticking out in my head,” he said. “A lot of the usual stuff was well-received, and a lot of things that were missed during our first show were left out again tonight – little jokes here and there – which we’ll probably get rid of now.”
“The next process would be to look at everything again and see what we think is the weakest stuff and replace it with newer stuff to make it the best show it can be,” he continued. “As a second show, however, I’m pretty happy with where it’s going.”
YouTube comedian Chris Bingham was in attendance and spoke to us about what the duo has achieved. “It was really, really tight,” says Bing. “These guys have set themselves up with a fantastic show that they can develop into something powerful.”
Speaking about why people should come and see Jack & Dean & Friends Live, says Bing. “It supports upcoming artists in a real capacity, not just a passive one. But more importantly, if you enjoy Jack and Dean, they’ve managed to transpose what they do on-screen to stage as well as I’ve ever seen established acts manage it.”
— TenEighty UK (@TenEightyUK) July 20, 2014
JACK & DEAN & FRIENDS LIVE returns to the stage at Soho Theatre, London on 11 and 18 August 2014. Tickets are available at LiveNation.