Monday, September 1, 2014

Short Comedy reviews: Edinburgh Fringe 2014

In an effort to chill-out and enjoy my vacation I did not take notes during the comedy shows.  So my quotes may be more of an approximation.  And as always I'm not a comedy critic.  But after a couple years of this I might have to start admitting that I am.

Josie Long: Cara Josephine

Josie Long can make a show about having her heart broken both moving and hilarious.  From her complaint that all break-ups are unique, like "cunty snowflakes," to her honest assessment of her difficult family (describing her stepfather, "to put it generously he's the opposite of loving"), she explores her struggles with love and how her effervescent personality suffered through some dark times as of late when her last relationship ended.  She still manages to be buoyant, bubbly, and totally appealing as she explains how she mistakenly thought this was the love of her life based on a rash decision made during sex.  She addresses issues with class and politics a bit--hilariously suffocating Nigel Farage of UKIP with marshmallows on a romantic date and refusing to do the Heimlich maneuver "because it's foreign".  Her material about her family struck a chord when she started to worry that her relationship problems were linked to her parents and their poor models for successful relationships.  And I certainly appreciated her perspective on "old people" at Royal Festival Hall.  Solidarity. Her shows are always well-structured, penetrating, and smart.  It's always a pleasure to watch her work.  Even if she made me cry at the end--in a nice way. 

Fun fact:  Later in the week I saw Every Brilliant Thing where there is some audience participation.  Josie was in the audience and got roped into the show as the character's girlfriend. It's a show that was provoking a lot of tears and when it came time for Josie to read her material she was having a hard time getting through it with all her crying.  And frankly her crying caused me to cry more.  So even when it's not her show she can still make you cry.

David O'Doherty:  David O'Doherty Has Checked Everything

David O'Doherty is trying to find happiness and it has not been going well.  He thinks "I should be happier than this."  Thinking he could find happiness through a pizza cutter, a girlfriend, or a North Face coat all proved to be a fool's errand.  In his new show he embarks on a number of quests to find happiness.  He again runs into trouble with mice in his house (I always love his mice stories).  He does one impression--of a man shitting a Toblerone and let's face it I will never look at Toblerone again without thinking of him.  He continues to excel in his blend of wacky songs and structured stories.  Just hope he tours America again because it felt like it had been too long since I had seen him.

Fun fact:  I have no idea what this means, but I wrote down this quote from his show:  "And the secret is falcons."

Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman

Bridget Christie returns to the Fringe with another show about feminism, because sadly feminism did not get sorted in the interim year.  But lucky for us we have her on our side.  She said she used to be a part-time feminist until she had a daughter and until a man farted in the women's studies section of bookstore.  That's when she became a full-time feminist. Christie is on the attack against Page 3, the limited perspectives of women in advertising (wanton or vacuous are our only options), gendered stereotypes, and female genital mutilation.   Incredibly, she spends a good deal of time addressing FGM and still manages to make her jokes funny, her point sharp, and educate us in the same breath.  Her rational breakdown of a Mueller yogurt ad is a thing of beauty.  Fucking hell she's brilliant.  And she too made a snowflake joke (must be a thing in the air this year).  Telling women to relax about their bodies and be comfortable with the fact that every vagina is unique: "Vaginas are like snowflakes made of gammon."

Fun Fact: I saw a very small child with great vigor burst through the heavy door at Summerhall one morning.  She was followed by her dad a few steps behind her.  And it turned out to be Bridget Christie's daughter.  I shouldn't have been surprised that her 3 year-old is so self-possessed.

Sara Pascoe:  Sara Pascoe vs. History

I'd heard from a number of folks I trust that Sara Pascoe was a must see.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but I found the material to be fine but not quite as smart as I had hoped.  Although she is attempting to address feminism and issues of female sexuality, she doesn't quite structure her material to build.  There's commentary and some good jokes but they felt a bit divorced from one another. The very loose thread about history gets tossed out and the beginning and the end but it does feel tacked on.  I mean I appreciate someone trying to address woman and the need for body acceptance, for respecting women's choices, and not demanding some sort of universal concept of what women want.  But honestly I also wish she was a better comedian to deliver that material in a sharper way.  Ultimately it felt more like a loose lecture than a comedy show.

Fun fact:  I tried to see Sara Pascoe last year and missed the show even though I had a ticket.  I tried to see her again this year earlier in the week and they sold the last ticket like a minute before I got there.  So it felt like a lot of build-up only to find the show just "ok."

Alfie Brown: Divorced from Reality (and My Wife)

I got brought along to this show by a friend and from the title I assumed Alfie was going to be an older bloke.  So when a handsome, blue-eyed, long-haired 27 year-old hipster in tight jeans walked out I was a little thrown.  Wanking, women, divorce, unplanned pregnancies, underage sex, mental health, and the n-word were on the menu.  And despite a moribund crowd who seemed to be giving him little (or perhaps its his style is to yell at his audience frequently for not getting it) I thought he handled most of the material well.  For me the underage sex bit, was provocative for provocation's sake.  And his n-word section too felt a little like he was poking the shark because he could.  Not that comedians shouldn't push the envelope--they in fact should.  But if you're going out on that limb it's got to be the tightest material and I still felt it was wobbly in both sections.  But he's a charming stage presence and I'd give him another shot if I came across him again.

Fun Fact: This was my last show of the festival.  It's not a fun fact.  But that's all I've got.

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