sat 13/04/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Jordan Brookes/ Catherine Cohen | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Jordan Brookes/ Catherine Cohen

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Jordan Brookes/ Catherine Cohen

Dave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards winners

Best comedy show winner Jordan BrookesDave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards

Jordan Brookes Pleasance Courtyard ★★★★

Jordan Brookes doesn’t tell gags. Well, he does but not in a traditional stand-up way. Rather, his jokes are subtly inserted into I’ve Got Nothing’s seemingly disjointed narrative.

Brookes’s previous shows were similarly non-traditional and challenging, and last year’s required his audience to wear headphones as he experimented with a high-tech, high-concept hour. But this his new Fringe show pared back and much more accessible than his previous shows, and it works a treat.

The show’s starting point is that he’s “got nothing”, that the show is a free-form encounter with the audience and one that they can in some way determine. He throws out random questions - “What shall we do?” he asks at one point, and then, with a sly smile that creeps across his face: “Do you think this is going according to plan?” 

Of course it is. Yes this is mostly scripted, but the apparently freewheeling format, where he runs off stage, gets in someone’s face, or turns off the stage lights, allows Brookes to wing it, to decide how far to push a joke, or to change the tone or pace at will. There appears to be a lot of interaction with the audience but Brookes is not really listening; he's in control, absolutely. It’s sometimes up close and personal, but even at its most confrontational the tone is never aggressive.

The jokes come in the many, many ideas threaded through the hour; some are just fleeting, others  make another appearance later. The subjects – his childhood, his family, the end of the world, his body image (“I look like a hipster Nosferatu”) – cover a lot of territory as Brookes examines how we interact with each other.

Brookes plays with comedy tropes as he performs stand-up or confessional comedy one moment, Absurdist or physical clowning the next. There are running gags; he does some dad dancing every 14 minutes, because that’s the average attention span so he needs to re-engage us, and he talks about how he might seduce his mother – only if he had to, mind, he’s not a pervert. He threatens to walk off stage because it’s not working or we’re not giving him what he wants.

I’ve Got Nothing is edgy and discomfiting but engrossing, and won best show in Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Until 26 August


Catherine Cohen Pleasance Courtyard 

Catherine Cohen is all smiles and sequins, dressed in glittery hot pants and ankle boots, and full of New York attitude. But quickly we see that behind that sass there’s something less showy and rather more vulnerable as she digs deep into her diva creation’s need for audience approval in The Twist...? She's Gorgeous, for which she won best newcomer in Dave's Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Cohen shows us why she has been such a hit at Alan Cumming’s Club Cumming in New York. Her opening song has the lines “Boys never wanted to kiss me/ So now I do comedy” – about supposedly being too heavy as a teenager to be attractive.

She doesn’t care much for rhyme or scansion, but her songs – accompanied by keyboardist Henry Koperski – have a delightfully subversive streak, and other subjects are body fascism, the difficulty of buying clothes for women who are not stick thin, and digging a grave for some handsy creep she once met. 

Between songs Cohen talks a mile a minute and packs in the gags as she describes a recent break-up, her yearning for uncomplicated sex – “I love sex because it famously has no consequences,” she says drily – and the dubious pleasure of routine masturbation.

The picture she paints – sometimes graphically – is of a comically needy entertainer with a host of insecurities that she traces back to that teenage rejection, but which is only a small part of her problems. It’s car-crash cabaret, but we can’t avert our eyes.

Cohen’s performance is full-throttle and searingly honest about what it means to be part of the Instagram generation, to whom looks mean everything. 


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