|E D I N B U R G H L O N D O N N E W Y O R K|
Critics Choice - The Observer - 25/7/04
Review: The Observer - Sue Arnold|
Jim Sweeney: genius
I've deliberately left writing about Jim Sweeney's one-man show, My MS and Me , until the end, hoping I'd come up with adequate words to describe it. I can't.
Sweeney is a Comedy Store player and a scriptwriter for, among others, Rory Bremner and Paul Merton. He also has MS, which doesn't stop him from being the sharpest, wittiest, cleverest, most interesting, sympathetic and inspiring man I have ever heard on radio.
Jim - you're not disabled, you're a genius. Tell me the name of your local and I'll keep buying you drinks (you mentioned you were partial to alcohol), just as long as you keep making me laugh. Cheers.
-April 24th 2005
Photograph ©2005 Andy Hollingworth
GUARDIAN - EDINBURGH PREVIEW
July 31st 2004 - JIM SWEENEY
Ask anyone who does improv to name the best improviser in the business, and there's a good chance they'll say Jim Sweeney.
As Mike McShane once told me, "He's the best improviser I've ever seen on every level".
However, Sweeney is also a fine actor, and an insightful writer. He's been in some of the best comedies on British TV (Blackadder, One Foot In The Grave, Whose Line Is It Anyway?). He's toured in Pinter's Betrayal. And this summer he's doing a new one-man show called My MS And Me, directed by Lee Simpson.
Sweeney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990. This year, as he puts it, he decided to make some money out of it.
If it's even half as good as Danny's Wake, his award-winning two-hander, performed -with Steve Steen, he deserves to make a mint.
Be there at the beginning.
WIILIAM COOK - Metro Gilded Balloon Teviot, from Fri 6
Tue 10 Aug 2004
My Ms and Me
A look at MS conceptions
IT STARTS, like the Bible, with a fall - Jim Sweeney announces his presence on stage with a loud thump and a look of resigned embarrassment.
He has multiple sclerosis.
The relaxing/remitting kind.
He first noticed his vision blurring in 1985, was diagnosed in 1990 and, after a series of attacks that slowly increased in severity, now finds it impossible to walk any distance and hard to stand up.
Soon, he estimates, he will need 24-hour care.
He is 49.
He may like to portray himself - MS or no MS - as a natural-born layabout, but Sweeney is an experienced performer.
One of the Comedy Store Players, he has appeared in a host of TV shows, including Whose Line is It Anyway? and Blackadder the Third, and picked up a Fringe First in 1999 for Danny's Wake.
As you might expect from a professional, My MS And Me derives more of its power from artistry than simple pathos.
The fall that begins the show is pre-arranged, and the performance that follows is tightly staged and powerfully written.
"People say take your time, Mr Sweeney," he says with wry bile. "As if I'm going to take the hotel lobby at breakneck speed."
What follows is a brief guide to MS and a short history of his affliction.
It sounds dry, but Sweeney turns a muscle-wasting disease into a tight drama, narrating his fears, doubts, anger and resignation.
Separating the man from the show isn't easy: as he tells how the left side of his body resisted MS with less valour than the right, it's hard to stop your eyes focusing on his pallid left hand, a clumsy shadow of his right.
It's equally hard to resist stock responses.
He is awfully brave, isn't he? But Sweeney's funny, engrossing and mercilessly honest show keeps melodrama at a distance, and is all the more poignant for it.
Very good 18 Aug 2004
reviewer: David Kettle, United Kingdom
You get to learn a lot about MS in Jim Sweeney's monologue - but it's great that he avoids self-indulgence and recognises that others have it much worse than him. He's honest, but doesn't want our pity. It leaves you wondering how many more years he'll be around at the Fringe.
Thought provoking 16 Aug 2004
reviewer: Tony Sweeney ( no relation!), Ireland
Jim Sweeney of the Comedy Store players gives and thoughtful and thought-provoking insight into the world of the MS sufferer. He steers away from self pity, and his honest and well-thought presentation gives an excellent insight into an unfamiliar existence for most of us. Not exactly enjoyable, but definitely worthwhile.... Go see!
Excellent 14 Aug 2004
reviewer: Laurence Young, Inverurie Scotland
This is almost a lecture on what it means to have MS but is delivered in such an entertaining and very funny manner that you are never made to feel sorry for Jim Sweeney - and being sorry for him is the last thing he wants. This is a show which sends you out with a smile on your face, better informed and with the realisation that you don't have much to complain about yourself.
My MS and Me
Friday August 20, 2004
Jim Sweeney can't stand up for falling down. He has the auto-immune disease, multiple sclerosis. Essentially your body is attacking itself - which means that if you are looking for someone to blame, it's you.
The patron saint of ice skating was a 14th-century nun. She was also the first recorded sufferer of MS. Sweeney can't ice skate. He can barely walk. When he does manage to shuffle along, passers by think he is drunk - and his vision is so blurred that the entire world looks like a Monet painting.
What hasn't deserted him is his sense of humour. Sweeney's quiet musings on the nature of illness and the perils of bad acting are told with a directness and sharp humour that is enormously engaging. Like all really good shows, it is about much more than it appears. It is a brief hour not about how to live with MS, but about how to live - with or without legs that work.
Jim Sweeney's show couldn't be described as stand-up by any stretch of the imagination, largely because he can't.
Sweeney, stalwart of the Comedy Store Players and former star of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, has had multiple sclerosis for 19 years, and has almost lost the use of his legs.
Seated in a Ronnie Corbett-style chair, he delivers a candid, lively and entirely un-self-pitying account of the absurdities of living with an incurable illness.
That may not sound like a laugh a minute, but My MS and Me is very much in the spirit of John Diamond's book about cancer; Sweeney doesn't gloss over the painful or humiliating aspects of his condition, but he does consistently find comedy in all the many instances of your body rebelling against you.
There's the cruel misfortune of no longer being able to make a gun shape with his left hand, while holding one of the few jobs in which it's often necessary to do so. There's the problem of the wobbly walk being misunderstood.
'The MS Society make badges that say, "I'm not drunk, I've got MS,"' he explains. 'Unfortunately, I could never wear those badges.'
The show is profoundly affecting as well as funny, but Sweeney dislikes being thought of as heroic.
'Particularly when well-wishers tell me I'm so brave, because if it was them they'd just go and fucking kill themselves.'
theatre review - tw rating: 5/5
My MS and Me
Gilded Balloon Productions
Jim Sweeny is a brilliant comedian.
He also has Multiple Sclerosis.
So he sits us down and talks about it.
Now, many performers who exploit their problems for the stage make their audience feel desperately uncomfortable.
And really, we're not their shrink, we don't get paid $200 an hour to listen to their cathartic outpouring.
But Sweeny is very relaxed, there is no 'spontaneous' forced epiphany, he just tells us about MS.
Sweeny is a brilliant performer and writer; understated, honest, poetic, sensitive, moving, ironic and absolutely hilarious.
And it's all very educational.
If you see him (you can't miss him, he wears Converse sneakers and hobbles around with a cane) help him across the road to the pub, buy him a drink.
He is perfect.
When improv artist Jim Sweeney
first contracted multiple sclerosis
19 years ago, he probably never
imagined almost two decades on
he'd be doing a solo fringe show
Given that he anticipates
being confined to a wheelchair in
the next couple of years, it's
probably now or never.
For obvious reasons, this is more
sit-down than stand-up theatre, as
Sweeney recounts the rise of his
condition and some of the
everyday absurdities he has to face
It's as simple as that, as
Sweeney plays it straight, engaging
us with dry wit rather than
shrieking in our faces.
As touchingly candid as it is,
Sweeney is never maudlin or self-pitying.
He never once plays the
victim or indulges in the whingeing
excesses of the more cringeworthy
forms of confessional culture that's
thrust so rudely before us.
it's a paean to human dignity in
the face of adversity.
Oh, and the
opening music, Elvis Costello's 'I
Can't Stand Up For Falling Down?'
Even more interesting, and funny too, is Jim Sweeney
in his show 'My MS and Me' (****).
mixture of anecdote and fact: Sweeney is as keen to
point out the symptoms of MS as he is to tell a joke.
The Comedy Store Player is witty and particular, and
he tells his jokes with an ease and accomplishment
that come from years spent writing and improvising
His humour comes from personal
experiences, the safe area where the audience is
comfortable to laugh at his jokes, but when he slips
in references to Multiple Sclerosis as anagrams of the
words there is a chilly, nervous silence.
self-assurance almost guarantees against the fear of
offending him on the part of his audience, but there
is still the odd doubt in everyone's mind: should we
really be laughing?