Live Review: Jena Friedman, Soho Theatre

Jena Friedman certainly looks like she has plenty of attitude in her surly press shots. And calling her show American C*nt – even with an asterisk – is quite audacious. Onstage, however, she is less in your face. There are only flashes where she justifies her own build-up.

The show certainly covers a lot of satirical ground, from terrorism to Trump to Bill Cosby to feminism to single mums to Beyoncé to the invisibility of older women and more. But the breadth was part of the problem. No sooner had Friedman cracked a cutting one-liner than she had moved onto another topic. At one point she warned us that she was going to riff about the right to life - her “abortion portion” – but if you blinked you would have missed it.

There was another small issue here. While her languid style was universal enough to convey the gist of her humour there were more references than usual that might have had an English fan scurrying to Google. I wasn’t familiar, for instance, with the transgender sportsperson who had decided to pursue a career in fighting. And it might come as a surprise to British audiences that Friedman is more scared of Ted Cruz than Trump.

Some stories on the other hand were easily relatable. Her pertinent anecdotes about being on the campaign trail with Clinton and Bernie Sanders and witnessing the cynical PR tactics of their staff certainly chimed with what I’ve heard about British politics. 

Friedman did a version of this show in Edinburgh last summer, but at times this still felt like a work in progress. Not just because she glanced occasionally at her notes but also because there were moments where she openly admitted that she knew a subject was ripe for humour but hadn’t come up with a suitable joke yet. Jet lag may have contributed to her hesitant manner, but she had hardly just flown across the Atlantic on the red eye - she was at the Glasgow Comedy Festival at the weekend. 

Despite the problems with this set there was clearly a devilish mind at work. And at times a provocatively dark one. It can’t be easy to come up with a new 9/11 gag after all this time but she managed it, pointing out that at 33 years old she could still get into the same size jeans as she wore back then. “Never forget,” she added. Not exactly an unforgettable show, but Friedman is definitely a name to remember. 

Until March 26 then April 8 & 9. Tickets here.

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