Edinburgh Fringe 2015 Review: Jena Friedman: American C*nt

applauds the comedian’s attempts to traverse complex issues even if it does cost the show a few jokes

★★★★☆

Venue: The Stand Comedy Club 5 & 6

It is no surprise that a show titled American Cunt decided to veer towards the taboo. What is a surprise is that after forty-five minutes of Freidman discussing the word ‘cunt’, feminism, gender, abortion, Israel and ISIS a woman decided enough was enough and walked out of the venue furious after a pretty inoffensive joke (which would paraphrase to: since one in four people die of cancer if you’re not affected by it you must not get out enough).

While this may give an impression that Freidman’s show relied heavily on shock humour, the reality was quite different. While based around topics which would never find their way into a Live at the Apollo or Michael Macintyre set, each topic was dealt with from a liberal, relatable perspective. Freidman’s sympathies mostly lay in the same place as her audience: what was presented was a satirisation of modern life, kicking up not down. The spin put on the topics was also often tangential to anything particularly offensive; she didn’t just go on stage and begin insulting her audience, she spoke about, for instance, the gentrification of the word ‘cunt’ in Scotland as compared to the states.

While the fact that the show takes an opportunity to delve into areas many comedians would not dare touch is most definitely a strength (not the least in its ability to demonstrate that it is possible to do so without being overly offensive), there were moments when the comedy value was somewhat sacrificed for this. During a five minute detour into the relationship between Friedman’s Jewish heritage and her opinions on Israel the atmosphere in the room dampened somewhat, not even because it carried a perspective that was particularly divisive (although that must have contributed to degree, it is after all a topic where presenting any view is unlikely to garner much sympathy), rather it failed to tread the delicate line between tackling a heavy topic and pointing out the comedy in it. The fundamental failure of the section was that it granted neither adequate context nor discussion to make any pertinent comment, or the brevity to draw much that was humorous from the topic.

That said, any failures in holding the audience through what was a minefield of topics were brief and on the whole they were expertly avoided. It requires a deft hand to take an audience, most of whom have never heard of you before, through quite so many risky areas without alienating them. Friedman is extremely close to nailing this balance.

One comment

  1. I agree with both of you on this one. Roth makes a great point about the relationships being advncaed while Dennis sums up my feelings about the episode in its entirety, “it didn’t do anything new for me”. Sounds a little contradictory at first, but I feel all the info we got regarding the state of their ‘family’ could have been plunked down in any episode. Nothing about what was going on was specific to those revelations. Before you say it, honestly, when has Peter, or any character for that matter, NOT been in danger? It is one of the cool things about Fringe, the characters are the main players in the story and not solving cases that do not effect their lives directly (e.g. any procedural and a lot of X-files). Without those conversations, we are left with a mediocre episode. There was no suspense regarding Peter contracting the virus, no ‘oh crap what are we going to do now?’ feeling, there was just one less person that needed lines. We knew everything was going to be alright so the suspense was sucked out of the room and we were left watching everyone zombie through the steps to cure the infected and avoid the building being imploded, or whatever containment was supposed to happen. I liked the episode, it just didn’t live up to the Fringe potential.

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