Tiff Stevenson: Sexy Brain – Soho Theatre, London

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Tiff Stevenson starts her stand-up show, Sexy Brain, knowingly labelling herself ‘Sexually Confident Woman in her Forties’. Her focus is the female experience – specifically her own experience – as is the way with stand-up comedians. She is funny on the subject of her mother, who goes in for ludicrously long-winded directions and has the tendency to make the sort of cutting remarks only mothers know how to deliver to their adult daughters.

But it has to be said, this is fairly classic territory and Stevenson doesn’t roam widely. It’s hard to say something fresh about pandemic behaviour and her riff on drinking during the day doesn’t really cut it. Her jokes about public figures feel similarly laboured, although the news about Carrie Johnson’s latest pregnancy today gives her go at Boris a bit of punch. Several times when a joke fails to land, she ends up explaining it to us.

There are certainly plenty of people in the audience who find everything wildly funny. Oddly enough – although is not the result of a strict survey – most of them seem to be the youngsters. We oldies know who we are – we are the ones who laugh at her joke about having SAD – ‘the Vivaldi type’ (all the four seasons…). But you really have to relish comedy about periods – tampons, moon cups, the works – Brazilians and the need for a male contraception pill.

Stevenson is at her best when she talks about her ADHD, with her uncontrollable urge to guess what her boyfriend is about to say next. But her label ‘Sexy Brain’ is never fully explained. Like quite a lot in the show, this feels in need of more polish.

She admits her feminism is her own unique brand, but her targets are mainly other females, from callow young women in California, solemnly talking about ‘hitting rock bottom’, to privileged, wobbly-voiced posh British ones. She inveighs against girls and women who collude to shame their sisters. While this is fair enough, the anecdote she chooses to illustrate this about losing her virginity feels tired.

It is when she risks surreal flights of imagination that Stevenson’s show works best. There’s a terrific joke about dolphins which comes out of nowhere. And she’s brilliant at accents, not least her send-up of the cockney geezer persona which she finds herself adopting in LA. But overall, it’s a bit hit-and-miss.

Runs until 23 May 2023 and then continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Hit and miss

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