This gentleman sadly lost his battle with cancer earlier this year – Feb 2019.
I’m not going to pretend I knew him well. The strange thing is, having been on the comedy circuit since the late 80’s, I only got to meet and talk with him a couple of times, the most memorable meeting taking place in 2017…
(QUEUE HARP MUSIC, BLURRY VISION etc)
…..We were both playing a comedy festival in Cardigan, actually in a marquee on the grounds of Cardigan castle. We had separate marquees, mine could hold about 40 people his about 400.
For that show I eventually got about 7 punters while JH sold out – his Radio 4 fan base coming in handy no doubt.
As a Welsh man gigging in my own country I was of course miffed by these attendance figures. But luckily i’d arranged for the venue to agree to a guaranteed fee for me, not a lot but at least it was something.
Anyway, Jeremy and I bumped into each other in the courtyard. He recalled me from an earlier meeting in the Balham Banana Cabaret. He was so friendly, and wanted to meet for a beer after his show. I was surprised and flattered. He always struck me as a nice guy. I then watched his show and of course he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He threw in a mensch for my show whilst onstage – not that it had much effect, but a cool thing to do nonetheless.
Jeremy was what is loosely termed a political comedian. Categorising comedians can be a bore, but one has to say that JH did submerge himself – material wise – in the illustration of what he perceived as right wing injustices. He apparently was once even shot at whilst visiting the West Bank by Israeli soldiers….some gig that must have been!
Unlike some comics who go on politics and human rights his material was free of hypocrisy i.e. he did not preach political correctness while at the same time picking on some other unsuspecting social group. Also, his material was genuinely witty, being clever in its structure and punchlines.
To be honest the only thing i now recall in detail of his material that night I recall because it angered me slightly. I seem to remember him mentioning Plaid Cymru, saying “I wouldn’t vote for a party that has the words ‘national’ and ‘socialist’ in the title.” The joke was essentially comparing Plaid Cymru to the Nazis. That to me was the only joke that lacked balance, because it’s a bit harsh to make that comparison in my opinion. Wales is after all only a small nation with a threatened culture!
As a person who raised in a welsh speaking home i am constantly reminded on my travels around Wales of the influx of people, and the disrespect often shown to the native language. As i sat there in the audience for JH’s show I could tell – maybe he couldn’t – that a large proportion of them were incomers to Wales. The fact that JH referred to the crowd as ‘Welsh’ people made me laugh for the wrong reasons. Yes maybe they live and have bought homes in this beautiful part of the world, but are they even aware that the mountains, hills and fields around here have their own ancient names? This irked me more because of the gig’s location. Cardigan is in west Wales which is still seen as a stronghold for the welsh language….an image which in reality is fast becoming bullshit. Walk down Cardigan high street and the accent you hear is just as likely to be Midlands, Yorkshire, or anything except the perceived stereotype.
Anyway we discussed it. And he bought me a pint. And it was all good.