Harriet Kemsley: Puppy Fat

Kent-native Harriet Kemsley takes a juvenile look at an adult world, as she describes fitting into the grown up sphere of sex, porn, drugs and flat-sharing with child-like naivety, enthusing about vegetarian Haribos and Jumanji.

She earnestly and winsomely whines “wowwee!”, then spices content up when talking about smear tests and porn, but there is not enough content, structure or imagination to sustain this for the full hour.

As she tests audience members on which Disney Princess they are, Kemsley tells us she used to work for Buzzfeed. This is fitting, since just like Buzzfeed Kemsley's approach is insubstantial, unsatisfying and determined to reduce all experience to disconnected bullet points. As she runs through her lengthy list of things that she worries about (surprisingly not introduced as “an arbitrary number of things that might make you anxious”), from personal incompetency to the sexualisation of young girls, there's little in the way of linking, each new topic appearing abruptly and arbitrarily. It is as if she is trying to cram in every disparate, potentially amusing thought she has ever come across, not trusting the idea – or her own comic judgement – enough to stay with it for any length of time.

Her self-labelled weirdness as she flits through her anxieties seems affected in its deliberate kookiness, and suffers from appearing neither particularly weird or particularly funny. Dropping into potentially political topics such as Barbie dolls, gendered toys and rape (“Five hot button feminist issues to stir up any dinner party”), there's no sense she's given them much thought, no satirical bite, clever commentary or provocative controversy, nothing to suggest that there's any real point to the material. She has a neat analogy comparing a scantily clad lady and a seductive-looking cake both asking for it, but often her punchlines are abrupt and obvious, dipping briefly into a subject simply to pluck the most immediate and easiest gag, then swiftly moving on.

Kemsley does interact confidently with the audience and has them under control in the few exchanges, suggesting she has a wit that may work better with more natural and conversational material. Generally however, the audience titter kindly, but there are no soaring moments of collective guffawing. Towards the end of the show, she also ventures bravely into deeply personal territory, admirable in putting her life and relationship up for scrutiny, but this disjointed episode is too disjointed to generate much empathy.

Kemsley's go-to set up appears to be making childish things naughty, whether it's Father Christmas or Barbie. She earnestly and winsomely whines “wowwee!”, then spices content up when talking about smear tests and porn, but there is not enough content, structure or imagination to sustain this for the full hour. 

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Harriet Kemsley: Puppy Fat

★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Award-winning idiot and quirky rising star Harriet Kemsley brings her much anticipated debut hour to the Fringe. Isn't she brave? As seen on the BBC Three's Comedy Marathon, BBC Radio 1's Comedy Lounge, Funny Rotten Scoundrels on London Live and as tour support for Katherine Ryan and Stephen Merchant. 'A very funny new stand-up' (Time Out).