Funny Magnet is Jon Richardson’s first comedy DVD, which features the hour-plus comedy set, a fantastic Live at the Apollo bonus clip, and a commentary track featuring Jon Richardson and comedian Matt Forde, which, since Richardson hasn’t ever watched a stand up commentary track, is a meandering conversation from good anecdotes and relevant behind-the-scenes stories to “Why are we doing this?” and “Shh, I want to watch this part.”
Funny Magnet (a play on the term fanny magnet) includes one of my all-time favorite comedy bits ever, Jon Richardson’s views on doing the washing up. This is a routine that has been featured in Live at the Apollo (not the one that’s on the DVD), and this time it’s extended with an all too funny tangent on recycling. The gist of the story is Jon now lives with housemates, and he’d rather do all the washing up than have his housemates do it wrong. They put the cutlery in the wrong places, they put the spoons out to dry the wrong way up, and they wash the baking tray when there’s still wine glasses. (His biggest fear in recording the DVD was getting “baking tray” and “wine glasses” switched around because he has mixed them up before.) Richardson admits he feels quite bad about the “breadcrumb voice,” which mimics his housemate’s voice rather unflatteringly. I’ve always wondered what his housemates think of this routine, and buyers of this DVD are privileged to find out. Matt Forde, on the commentary track, is one of those housemates. Although he admits that the punchline to the joke about where the knives are supposed to go is his favorite line, he does stop to ask, “Who’s this bit about?” Richardson promises him that it’s mere “enhanced reality” and that he won’t actually kill him, especially since Forde is taking care to do things Jon’s way. Richardson asks him what Forde’s way would be, “Knives in the lefthand bit, forks in your room, spoons in the toilet?” Forde then addresses the listeners, which he now assumes are in a courtroom, using this tape as evidence in the trial of Forde’s murder.
Richardson makes use of his iconic whiny impersonations of people he knows, the reality being that all the impersonations are the same voice, as the only real impression he can do is Pop-Eye (listen to the commentary for that little gem). If there’s a weak point, it’s a drawn out Master Chef discussion and weird porn admissions at the beginning, but these are quickly replaced by classic Richardson themes like how he feels about substance abuse (“Drugs, you still got all the problems you had, but now you can’t get upstairs because they’re made of fish”) and why he doesn’t believe in relationships (he says something similar to what Karl Pilkington says in The Moaning of Life about how we don’t know whether Cinderella and the Prince got along after the story ends). If you think this sounds a bit dreary, this is Richardson’s schtick. He has a practical, if not pessimistic, view of life, and considers his job as comedian a sort of alchemist, turning unhappiness into laughter. He doesn’t like happy comedy because he feels it’s less authentic to life. But his misery, spun with Richardson’s deft word selection is what makes his routines so good.
Despite his issues with being in a relationship, he reveals that he recently discovered that he does have the desire to have kids one day, if only to blow their minds by saying something as simple as “Cars can’t turn right all the time. Sometimes they have to go straight on.”
Richardson ends on what he calls his Marmite moment. The people who like what Richardson does love this moment. For others, it’s unbearable. It is essentially the play-by-play description of a stranger on the train eating a packed lunch. Richardson is fascinated by the way that people eat their food. He says in his book, It’s Not Me, It’s You, that he eagerly awaits the day when Cadbury will release their research and once and for all tell us the right way to eat a Cadbury egg. He discusses the sandwich for a little while, but the show peaks when Richardson gets into the apple. On the train, Jon audibly yelped when the stranger “bit the lid off his apple.” After removing the stem, the man ate his apple, including the core, from top to bottom. Thanks to this routine, I’ll never be able to look at the bottom of an apple again without seeing an anus.
Much of the commentary is spent by Jon Richardson and Matt Forde complimenting each other’s looks and wondering why they’re doing a commentary if no one is going to listen to it. They’re so convinced that no one is listening, Jon gives out the real first five digits of his cell phone number and at one point gives out a Twitter phrase for people to tweet if they’ve watched it. The recording takes place right after Jon’s 30th birthday, and Matt notes that although Jon had jaegerbombers and a variety of other drinks last night in celebration, he managed to get home and line up all his pocket items neatly on the table before passing out. Jon is worried that if he’s allowed to release a DVD, then comedy has gone too far.
Eventually, they settle down and you start getting some funny anecdotes, like the time Jon refused to go to an Oasis concert solely for fear of being hit by piss. Matt went without him and wound up being hit in the face with a cup of piss. Ironically, Jon’s biggest regret of not going to the concert was not getting to see Matt hit with piss. You also get some behind the scenes scoops, like how the backdrop was designed to show the ups-and-downs of life, because Richardson’s policy is to avoid both the ups and downs and just stay emotionally neutral. We also learn that he chooses the playlist at the interval, and all the songs call back to something he’d talked about in the first act. And that he kept looking at the Universal people in the front row, terrified they weren’t enjoying the show and would cancel the DVD.
There are also discussions of the comedy industry. He considers people like his flatmate Russell Howard to be a different era than him, even though they are similar in age, because generations in comedy isn’t about how old you are. He feels that he’s still a kid in comedy compared to Howard. He suggests that a lot of comedians have a unique laugh because they just don’t laugh very much. Matt makes the brilliant observation that, although it may not seem obvious at first, the audience is just as far away from you on stage as you are from them. Jon makes fun of him for this insight for the rest of the DVD.