Edinburgh Fringe: Janeane Garofalo
Andrew Mickel14 September 2009
If you haven’t seen Janeane Garofalo do stand-up before, you might expect to get the kooky-grouchy poppet of The Truth About Cats and Dogs or Mystery Men.
You might expect to get one of the most belligerent popular liberal commentators in America, the only lefty who willingly appears again and again on the bearpit of Fox News.
What you might not expect is what you actually get, which is a scattershot, compulsively self-disembowelling narcissist, the components of whose act are a bit like drinks at a student ball: abundant, chaotic, not especially good, usually half-finished; and yet the total effect of which is surprisingly enjoyable.
Garofalo’s stock-in-trade is observational humour, which is roughly as unexciting as it sounds.
We learn that cricket is a bit baffling to an American; that her impression of Glaswegians is that they are a bunch of violent deep fried Mars Bar eating alcoholics; that the birther movement is vile and bizarre, that life was different before mobile phones, and that, hey, maybe being dead is rather like not being born, d’ya ever think of that? I kind of had, Janeane. Thanks for the insight.
We get a tiny bit of political material – I had hoped for rather more – and it’s pretty unincisive.
But then, about halfway through, she abandons the idea of structure and plunges into a kaleidoscopic barrage of reports from the front line of her mind.
This is clearly more comfortable territory for her and the pace picks up considerably as she discusses her alcoholism, her eating problems, her sexual hang-ups, and, at endearingly great length, her utter beguilement by Natalie Portman.
As she repeatedly eviscerates her own character, it’s hard not to warm to her conviction and immediacy (as two men leave the swelteringly hot venue early, she cries out ‘I’m pretending it’s fine – when in fact this moment is going to play in my head tonight over and over and over again’).
If we accept that such things can indeed be one-sided then this is, in the end, a highly conversational act. It might be ill-prepared and incoherent, but that contributes to its attractive air of honesty and directness.
I was rather left with the feeling that Garofalo would make a great dinner party guest. She’d probably get a bit loud, and she’d probably also embarrass herself, but she’d be charming too – and the only people it would piss off would be the annoyingly straight-laced couple you’d secretly been hoping would leave all evening.
Your rating: None
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