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We review comedian Jimmy Carr live at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone

As I joined what appeared to be an infinite and snowballing queue along Folkestone’s promenade on a drizzling, albeit mild, Wednesday evening, the somewhat subdued entry into the Leas Cliff Hall was suddenly negated by the growing number of jubilant faces pouring out of the town’s principal entertainment venue.

The concert hall, which approaches its centenary in just three years’ time, was hosting back-to-back gigs for British-Irish comedian, Jimmy Carr.

Jimmy Carr performed two shows at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone last night (May 1)
Jimmy Carr performed two shows at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone last night (May 1)

The 51-year-old Hounslow-born star was hosting the first show of his latest tour, Laughs Funny, in front of 1,800 theatregoers on the Kent coastline - 900 during his 7pm opener and the same number for his second show two-and-a-half hours later.

Yet, despite the duplicate performances, tickets for the jokester sold out quicker than I imagined last November. It left me no choice but to accept seats for the later slot at 9.30pm.

Indeed, the frantic nature of Carr’s double jamboree created a rather chaotic start to the night.

With those flocking out being replaced by a new cohort waiting to fill their now-vacant seats, gaining access to the hall was not the quickest.

However, the transition quickly began to take shape and the Christmas-esque lighting circulating the site’s glass perimeter gradually became less noticeable as bodies filled the seaside dome.

Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone was packed for both shows. Picture: Joe Harbert
Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone was packed for both shows. Picture: Joe Harbert

By this time, I had already sensed what was to come. The reactions of people departing the facility unquestionably mirrored the enthusiasm of those now heading for the hall themselves.

However, as I took my place, in the stalls section, I couldn’t help but feel both the hall and its seating were in need of a bit of TLC. Recent trips to the likes of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury made me think the facility had fallen behind some of its counterparts in modern design.

Nonetheless, my perception was quickly diluted when Carr used the benefits of the site’s three big screens to set the tone in his usual dark comedy style.

Immediate use of the C-bomb, plus an invitation to text the 8 Out of 10 Cats star so he can read out viewers’ own gags later on, was typical of a comedian who longs for audience members to become involved in proceedings.

Carr’s subsequent exploration of sex, religion, paedophilia, political correctness and just about anything in between showed him discussing subjects he has done so for more than two decades.

His discussion about being an older parent also featured an even darker side to the routine. It meant he added children to a skit which also poked fun at many other demographics, as well as celebrities such as Donald Trump, Piers Morgan and Prince Harry and Meghan.

Some quips naturally made me wince throughout the evening. Gazing at those sitting in front, it became clear many felt the need to wait for a nearby laugh before they themselves could show an outpouring of hysterics.

Guests gearing up for the 9.30pm event in Folkestone. Picture: Joe Harbert
Guests gearing up for the 9.30pm event in Folkestone. Picture: Joe Harbert

Yet despite the uneasy lines, Carr’s immersive delivery makes him stand out from other controversial figures.

Throughout the night he also raised awareness of men’s mental health, and even gained a widespread round of applause when he brought up the matter.

So, while we gasp and sit back at his expletive-filled extravaganza of insults and belittling zingers, Carr, in fact, let his mask down more than I had seen from him before.

His reference to jokingly wanting a knighthood and then distancing himself from the accolade by noting: “I don’t think Sir Jimmy may sound too good anyway now” was a flawless case-in-point.

So the shift from brutal one-line puns to equally as savage audience roasts ensured the 90-minute show had a great sense of structure and flow. But with ribaldry at the base of his routine, some will always argue he takes things too far.

Despite his mention of cancel-culture and briefly citing the reaction to his headline-hitting Netflix show two years ago, I left the hall thinking about whether the need to self-censor was on Carr’s mind following the backlash. It wasn’t.

His confidence made his set-ups and punchlines quick, precise and jaw-dropping . The taboo subjects were the foundation for relentless all-round laughs and highlighted a comedian showing no signs of losing audiences entering his 50s.

Of course, his disclaimer before coming on stage will always warn you about the night ahead. But ultimately, it’s important to remember his job is to make people laugh. And he succeeded.

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