Edinburgh Preview: Suzi Ruffell & Jen Brister

Suzi Ruffell loves doing stand-up - and it shows. It was previously her hobby, but now it’s her job she has a new pastime: trolling on the internet. This introduced a long running dialogue with a certain ‘John Up-the-Hammers’, an exponent of free speech with ‘concerns’ about the BBC gay agenda (comfy shoes for all!) and Suzi’s role in it. The ‘musings’ of John Up-the-Hammers and the online interactions with him were entertainingly peppered through the set and were a good way of highlighting some current ‘debates’ and challenges.

What followed was some glorious raging on the toxicity of living in a patriarchal society for both women and men

Suzi explained she suffers from anxiety and has a catalogue of worries keeping her awake at night. These range from North Korea to whether Britney is ok with fishes and Trump running along the continuum. As pointed out, if you don’t have anxiety, you’re probably not concentrating. The fear of dying alone is perhaps not uncommon, which Suzi thinks may in part explain the popularity of TV shows such as Dinner Date and Naked Attraction. Much fun was had here with analyses of these particular cultural car-crashes.

With your friends you can chill out and forget about your anxieties. But that's not always the case for everyone. Being invited to both their stag and hen night because they are unsure where you ‘fit in’ might not be stress-free, but it does mean that audiences will get to hear a comically absurd but oh-so-very recognisable story about the experience.

There were more good stories to be heard ranging from experiences had on a working stand-up tour of Australia to those on a relaxing holiday – an attempt to unstring a highly-strung self - in idyllic Sri Lanka, which was all good, except homosexuality is illegal and at least one of the monks was a bit dodgy.

For all her confessed anxieties, Suzi smiles a lot and is warm and friendly. She is fast-talking and irrepressible. Here we heard biographical and observational humour, but it wasn't only narrowly focused as she also drew on wider concerns and social structures. The audience laughed a lot. Simply, Suzi Ruffell is very funny.

So too, Jen Brister. She has her mum living with her. In her attic. It was not supposed to be for long. On hearing that her mother is living with her there are, Jen observes, different reactions from men (‘Oh how lovely!’) and women (‘You’ll never survive’). From this, a dallying on the differences in relationships between mothers and their sons (‘Kisses for my special boy. Let me do it.’) and their daughters (‘You look fat in that.’) which led onto the experiences of Jen and her girlfriend bringing up their twin boys. And so, a reflection on the contradictions of parenthood where the early years are spent either sleep deprived or inebriated, and where you can simultaneously feel the most important, best event in your life has occurred and that your life is ruined. Thoughts too on the the ‘advice’ and judgements and truisms that are freely dispensed to parents; and not only the playing out of parenthood, but childhood too. All rich material.

Do we get wiser as we get older? Perhaps not. The point for Jen Brister is that she was angry in her twenties and now in her forties she is livid. And she doesn’t ‘give a f**kometer anymore’. And praise be to that. For what followed was some glorious raging on the toxicity of living in a patriarchal society for both women and men, the invisibility of middle-aged women, the menopause (‘like fight club, no-one talks about it’) and periods (gather round to listen to ‘Crackanory’).

Parts of this were not as slick as they could have been. However, it needs to be remembered that this was a preview show. Moreover, it may be thought that some of the material was well-worn and we’ve heard much of it before. To an extent this is true, although, looking round, some might say it still has not been said enough. However, Jen Brister’s delivery, with all the drama, the impressions and vivid indignation, was exemplary and the audience’s laughing was hard and long. Near the end we were told the show was called Meaningless. Like life? Maybe. But we may as well laugh about it while we can. And with this show you will. A lot.

Reviews by Jonna Brett

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The Blurb

Suzi Ruffell: Nocturnal

If you don’t have anxiety, I don’t think you’re concentrating! Suzi is worried about everything – from someone breaking into her flat, to human rights across the globe, to her cat’s quality of life – and it’s keeping her awake.  Following last year’s critically acclaimed, sell-out run, this show is not to be missed.

Jen Brister: Meaningless

Ever wanted to know the meaning of life? No, neither has Jen, she’s too busy trying to stop her twins from using her shoes as a toilet. Still, we’re only on this planet for a finite time, wouldn’t it be good to find a bit of meaning in your otherwise pointless existence? Join Jen as she clutches at all the straws trying to make sense of it all.