Venue: Comedy Tent
Reviewer: Kris Hallett
Friday afternoon at Latitude 2016 sees a triumvirate of funny women take to the comedy tent and keep the laughter flowing to a packed tent of stand-up fans. Whether a deliberate choice or not, the three-run a gamut from the rather sweet Sara Pascoe, to the dry Shazia Mirza, to the sweetly acidic Canadian Katherine Ryan. Over the course of two hours, these three women address what it is to be a female in Britain in 2016, be it from a Muslim, white or overseas perspective.
Pascoe’s set is all about her quest to become a better person. Whether from learning empathy so she can learn to give a better handjob, or her generous gift to her boyfriend of a holiday to Barbados when he only gives her an electric toothbrush (she finds a more *cough pleasurable use for it), her style is filthy but delivered always with a sweet smile and take home to mother charm. She tackles a wide range in her set, from gender emasculation to the tendency Uber drivers have of taking selfies which would be better viewed in a chamber of horrors. She has toured extensively and this material is not exactly new, some of it being recycled from last years set here but she is so confident now in its delivery that it is a pleasure to hear it again.
If Mirza’s deadpan delivery has less rolling in the aisles, it is still a bracingly honest look at what it is to be a British Muslim woman, especially post-Brexit. Where do you go home to when you were born in Birmingham? Her comedy tends towards the vicious, her win as British Muslim women of the year is a victory for her ‘as she has achieved something’ but she lands some telling blows: about clueless editorial demands to ‘Muslim things up’ and about a situation she found herself in when a joke about the hijab and its ability to provide a family with a lot of free travel that ended up being one of the most complained about features on Radio 4. The liberal Latitude audience is made to feel deliberately uncomfortable over the set.
The final fizz comes from Ryan though, whose forty minute set is both professionally drilled and teetering on the edge of good taste. It is both sharp and a blast and suggests that she has the ability, if she gets the opportunity, to be a break- out star on the world stage. As a Canadian, she offers a unique take on what it is to be a woman in this country, though the comedy is broad enough to transcend the national and push her onto the world stage. Though some of her material aimed at an eleven-year-old boy in the front row feels a little uncomfortable at times, as she quizzes him on what he would use the picture he took of her for, most of her set fizzes with the crazy expectations we have for women to remain forever eighteen.