Dark, dangerous and unexpected. Expect yourself to be shocked by this performance, because Friedman’s humour takes dark, sharp turns and does not flinch from using the word cunt in its full Shakespearean crudity. Friedman apologises from the start about the offensive word in her show’s title – that word of course, she whispers, being ‘American’.

Jena Friedman

Jena Friedman. Photo © Seth Olenick

The smile of a charming, beguiling New Yorker turns regularly into near-psychotic pushing-you-up-against-the-wall, squeezing your balls and telling you hard home truths. Her topics are not the stuff of easy, relaxed humour. Abortion. Women over 60. Israel. ISIS. Short men. Ebola. Bill Cosby. Transgender. 9/11.

The persona she adopts onstage mocks a liberal, politically correct ‘intelligent American’  by often assuming that sort of attitude, and then knocking it sideways with unexpected punchlines that hit home like poleaxes. “I can still fit into my 9/11 jeans. Oh but these are like, my London Bombings pair. (I wrote that one for you guys here.)”

The audience members who have  had a few drinks beforehand react best to Friedman’s approach, because on many occasions, they are in spasms of laughter, but can’t quite believe that they heard correctly. ‘Did she really just say that?’ is a question you often find yourself asking. And the answer’s always Yes, she did. Friedman is putting herself way out on limbs over and over, and the razor-like attacks on conventional viewpoints force you to ask yourself hard questions about who has moulded your thinking, and how.

It’s difficult to relax into being ‘entertained’ by this show, because just when you think you’ve understood the zeitgeist and are on the right wavelength, bang, she slaps you in the face with an unexpected and shocking remark. She doesn’t have a central theme – she has several of them, and she jumps with agility from one to the next. And many of the topics are near-taboo, but confronted with honesty and an unflinching, cold hard gaze.

So this is not a show you can readily recommend to say ‘you’ll enjoy it, she’s funny’. It’s more a case of ‘You’ll be pretty shocked by this, often. It gets uncomfortable in places’. But it’s an eye-popping ride you’re going on – just make sure you’re listening carefully and thinking sharply. Friedman doesn’t do ‘nice’ comedy. Dark is often too small a word for the places her mind takes you, but you certainly need to go there and reflect on your assumptions about yourself and about the hard issues she addresses.

5 Stars

> Click here to book this show (last performance)
30 Aug at 19:30 (1hr)
The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6 (Venue 319)