Jack Rooke is the comedian behind the award winning Good Grief on Radio 4, and the recent BBC Three documentary ‘Happy Man’. In both, he explores the subjects of mental health and loss, bringing a warmth and humour that makes the most difficult of topics feel accessible.
‘Happy Hour’ is based on the same themes, but it also captures perfectly the journey from late teens to early twenties in all its undignified glory. In the most hysterical parts of the show, we are taken through Rooke’s experience of university, with shouted conversations in clubs and brilliantly awful dancing. The use of real footage and projected text messages work perfectly as an accompaniment to his story telling, presenting the familiar, uncool reality of clubbing and university life.
Moving moments cut frequently across the raucousness, reminding us of the show’s underlying themes of loss and mental health. It becomes transparent as the show goes on that it is first and foremost an open letter, addressed to a friend he has lost to suicide. It is an unexpected and ambitious subject for a comedy show, but it is treated throughout with the sensitivity and honest humour of someone who cares about it deeply. Though outrageous and loud, it is a show with a big heart.
It is more than a black comedy with poignant moments. As well as being a heartfelt story about the human experiences of love and loss, it is a call to arms. Rooke takes our emotions from moved to angry, and the show’s final message is one that begs us not to ignore the issues of male suicide and mental illness. He uses his talent and the platform it has given him to make us care as he does about these very real problems, refusing to shy away from their inherent political nature.
Happy Hour’s set of neon letters and gold streamers is the perfect backdrop for Jack Rooke’s glittering stage presence. There is something that feels incredibly new in his style and delivery. He is unpolished in a wonderful, refreshing way, remaining unpretentious and hilariously self-aware throughout the show. Though his jokes are clever and perfectly timed, they feel spontaneous. Rooke lacks the affectation often obvious in other comedians, and he is a breath of fresh air. It seems inevitable that his current success in comedy will continue to grow. Jack Rooke: Happy Hour is glorious and necessary. It is a glittering, heartfelt gem.
Jack Rooke: Happy Hour is playing at the Underbelly Cowgate until August 27.