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Tragedy Plus Time 

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Toby Hambly
Tragedy Plus Time Jake Lambert Smiling Pose

I saw Jake Lambert supporting Suzi Ruffell at the North Wall a few months ago and bum-rushed him as he got in a taxi at the interval. He tells me he was flattered by my garbled interview request; I’m rather mortified he can remember, but remember he does. “You were a lovely audience – I think it was the only night I did with Suzi but it was really good fun.” Embarrassing as it is, I’m delighted to have him on the phone. His 2018 Edinburgh Fringe debut was a complete sell-out, with reviewers unanimously predicting a bright future for the fledgling stand-up.

You will have heard some of his jokes already on the likes of Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats and The Now Show. That all began when he started his Twitter account, @LittleLostLad, where he posts neat little one-line gags. Before long, comedians began asking if they could buy certain jokes off him – something he “didn’t realise was a thing”. Continuing his “proper job” at the same time, he soon decided to “cut out the middle man” and get on stage. He’s well worth a follow by the way, especially if your feed is in need of a little comic relief. My current favourite: ‘I just got really emotional watching a forklift truck, it was moving stuff.’

The era of social media has been kind to the interviewer – thanks to Instagram I know that he has a cat called Richard Parker. (I like it when pets have full names like that, not least because it evokes the possibility that somewhere, a man called Richard Parker has a cat called Jake Lambert.) I bring up his cat, not only because of the name (ten points if you get the reference without Google – and no, it’s not Spiderman’s dad) but because he got shot. “He was out and came in crying. I looked round and his eye was hanging out. Someone had shot him in the head – lovely people in London. He’s a victim of gun crime – he clearly lives a crazier life than I do.” There were two Richard Parkers on the system at the vet when he went to get him. “Mine’s the one with one eye,” says Jake to clear up the confusion. “They’re both spelled the same,” says the receptionist. “Some gold was handed to me that day,” Jake tells me, “and a £2,500 vet bill.”

A carpenter I interviewed once described how after a while of making furniture, he started seeing furniture in the trees of his woodland home. The same must happen to comics; they must find themselves in situations where it’s apparent in real time that there’s a routine to be had. “Oh yeah definitely, sometimes it takes time. [Richard Parker] got shot in December and I didn’t really start joking about it until May. Feels a bit cruel doing it on the night – what is it? Comedy is tragedy plus time – I just did that.

“For example, the other night I went to that Restaurant in London, I don’t know if you know it, it’s called Dans Le Noire and you eat in the pitch black. The waiters are blind, and then so are you for about an hour. At the time I was thinking, ‘It’ll probably take a while but I’ll come up with something for this.’ But sometimes it’s best to look back on something – if you did it all the time you’d be a nightmare to live with.”

Do any of his nearest and dearest mind that their exploits might make it into his act? “My family love comedy. I did a joke on TV about my sister becoming pregnant when she was 16. I got her a book of names for her to go through… to find out who the dad is.” You’d be forgiven if that irked you, “But all my family love it because it’s just like, ‘wow he’s talking about us.’” Apparently, he was actually very shy around his family, to the point where nobody can really believe that he’s now a stand-up. “I think it’s the last job they imagined I’d do – because I never spoke, they didn’t know I was funny.”

What would he be were he not in comedy? “I’d be a police officer,” he says without a moment’s hesitation. “I applied even after I’d started doing writing work and stand-up. I’d just always wanted to join. Then the same week I got accepted, I also got signed by my agent. But I was obsessed with the police, I love it. I watch Line of Duty and practically everything to do with the police. The idea of going around telling people how to live their lives correctly appeals to me.”

I’ll admit I was a little taken aback by his answer. To my discredit, I must have instinctively thought that police officers aren’t funny, and that someone who’s ended up as a comic wouldn’t have ever considered a career in uniform. I’m sure he’d have made a fine police officer and, now I think about it, PC Lambert might have had a shot chance at catching Richard Parker’s attacker.

Never Mak the Same Mistak Twice | Edinburgh Fringe | 31 July-25 August | Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

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