I don’t have much experience with stand-up comedy. I have seen some stuff on TV and YouTube but, actually, I didn’t really like the only stand-up comedy show I had been to before. The reason? The routines were full of sexist, classist and racist jokes.
So when I was asked to review a What the Frock! comedy night, I decided to give this genre another chance. I learnt that What the Frock! are comedy events where the comedians are all women. When I heard it was going to be not only a female comedian but a feminist one, I was all the more intrigued. I had heard jokes about feminists before, but not made by feminists.
This time, it’s in a small and exclusive venue in Berkeley Square, Bristol, where one can sit on benches in front of the improvised stage or at the tables on the sides. The comedians are women but the audience is mixed. I sit on one of the benches with my friend and we wait for the show to start, having our drinks in the dim light.
It begins with the lovely Elf Lyons, who manages to make people laugh telling them about her darkest experiences at school, university and her new life in London post-Uni. She has so much energy and stage presence that the microphone is not necessary. The only problem I have with her great energy and pace is that sometimes her monologue is a bit difficult to follow due to English being my second language, but my friend (who is also foreign) and I manage to understand enough to laugh at most of the jokes.
“The issues she discusses are the same discussions going on in my country and, I imagine, in the rest of the world”
The main act, Kate Smurthwaite, not only makes you laugh, she also makes you think. Apart from being a comedian, she is a political activist and spokesperson for feminist issues, especially abortion rights, so her comedy is also about these issues. With a mix between jokes and a “how to debate” lesson, she tells the audience about her experiences of giving her opinion on TV shows, where she is often confronted with other people who have the opposite view. She uses a couple of accessories to give life to other characters and she makes the audience get involved in the imaginary debate with herself. The audience at this Fringe preview show is small and a bit shy but, with an animated Edinburgh crowd, I imagine it could lead to a real debate between audience members. I (again, as a foreigner) am not familiar with the people Kate talks about, but the main issues she discusses and the arguments of the people she confronts are more or less the same discussions going on in my country (Chile, if you are interested) and, I assume, in the rest of the world so I still get quite engaged in the imaginary debate.
Later in the show Kate makes fun of some politicians that she doesn’t agree with by impersonating and showing pictures of them and she talks about an on-going quarrel with a journalist and blogger on the subject of vajazzling (decorating your epilated vulva with jewels). I enjoy it a lot and the rest of the attendees seem to have a lot of fun as well.
Kate Smurthwaite is in Edinburgh this month performing her solo show, The News At Kate: My Professional Opinion at Ciao Roma and hosting a political chat show, The News At Kate: World Inaction < https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/news-at-kate-2013-world-inaction> at Canon’s Gait between 3 and 25 August (not including the 13th). Both shows are part of the PBH Free Fringe and are pay-what-you-can. Twitter: @cruella1
Elf Lyons has just completed her first solo show at the Camden Fringe, and is currently in the process of transferring her Bristol comedy night, The Secret Comedians comedy night in London. Twitter: @elf_lyons
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Images courtesy of Reuben Freeman/What The Frock! Comedy.
The feature image is the What The Frock! logo repeated twice. The image in the text is of comedian Kate Smurthwaite live on stage at Arnolfini, Bristol.
Camila Troncoso is a writer and performer studying theatre at the University of Bristol. She is originally from Chile