REVIEW: Anything’s possible in a one-liner when Milton Jones spies a gag

Hair-raising: Milton Jones on a spying mission at York Barbican

REVIEW: Milton Jones: Milton Impossible, York Barbican, February 22

THE whole point of camouflage is not to be spotted, but in his new guise as an ex-MI5 spy, Milton Jones’s gaudy military fatigues looked like they hadn’t slept for days.

As for his fuchsia, frilly dress shirt, it would have guaranteed he had absolutely no fuchsia in spying, if blending into the background were a requirement. Definitely a case of Milton Impossible.

Mind you, Jones’s attire was not the only sartorial talking point of Saturday’s triple bill. Support act Tom Houghton was gently settling into revelations of being the Honourable Tom – now that his ex-Army chief father, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, was a Lord and the Constable of the Tower of London – when he was distracted by a Technicolor nightmare of a shirt making an even louder exit down the stairs.

“You’ve missed nothing,” said Houghton, lobbing a comedy bomb after the escapee. “Except fashion”. Boom, off went the bomb, as if he were sentencing him to the Tower for a fashion crime.

Cheeky, charming, posh-boy fledgling comic Houghton went on to define the rules of rugby – a game of backs and forwards and going backwards and forwards – with a wit that outwitted the well-worn tea towel trying to explain the laws of cricket.

Tom, a hawk: Tom Houghton was quick to spot fashion crimes in the York Barbican audience

“I always love to help underprivileged children,” said Jones drily later, but Houghton, one quarter of the improv comedy troupe The Noise Next Door, needs no leg-up through entitlement. Check out his upcoming tour at The Basement, City Screen, York, on June 12 or The Carriageworks, Leeds, the next night.  

Before Hon Tom, Milton’s waspish “grandfather” had opened the show, entering with a trampoline as his mobility aide, and combining a flat cap with a dressing gown for a dressing down on the real meaning of assorted familiar road signs.

If you could imagine a hopelessly ill-prepared learner driver trying to wing his written test with wild guesswork, Milton’s grandad goes even further. Rather than being merely daft or surrealist, however, the new meanings actually make weird sense, and the world would be a happier place if they were true.

Although, in this city of cycling, cyclists might not have enjoyed his dig at them not recognising the meaning of a red light.

Post-interval, Jones returned, his shock of hair madder than ever at 55, to go with the aforementioned psychedelic dress code. Seventy-five minutes of the matador of piercing one-liners ensued, ostensibly on his spying past, but ranging far and wide, his timing deadly, his manner deadpan. (Ideal qualities for a spy, you might say).

From his last tour, the Kew comedian revived his droll Brexit commentary through the novel format of national flags engaging in sparring conversations, each seeking the last word, and no Jones show would be complete without a run of “my other grandfather” gags.

Before the tour, Jones joked: “At a difficult time for our country, I believe there’s a chance this show could unite the nation. Admittedly quite a small chance.” True, but Milton is comedy paradise found, and you wish more could see the world through his eyes. It is a lovely place to be, warmly knowing but not devoid of a child’s sense of wonder, playful, not cynical, absurd yet spot on.

If you missed Milton Impossible in York, your next mission, and you really should accept it, is to make it to Hull City Hall on March 18 or Leeds Town Hall the next night, 19.30 on the dot. Box office:;

Charles Hutchinson