‘I’m not mad,’ Janeane Garofalo is keen to point out. ‘I just speak in a strident tone.’ In this loosely formed hour, the actress, writer and activist (she tells us that she’s not that skilled at telling jokes) bounces from subject to subject, being distracted by a shiny new topic before having fully deconstructed the one at hand.
Conversational tangents that whizz around like selections on a high-powered sushi bar
Put A Pin In That is an acutely self-aware title, built on conversational tangents which see Garofalo whizz around topics like selections on a high-powered sushi bar, though none are fully explored before another three possibilities come over the horizon. This energy extends to Garofalo’s physical performance also - hardly content to contain herself to the stage, she strides out to the audience on multiple occasions, only to dive back onto stage before the house lights have found her. ‘I know I’m self-deprecating,’ she acknowledges before admonishing an audience member: ‘But that doesn’t mean you have to agree.’ She suggests that a good career in the nineties (or as she labels it, ‘a fluke’) is the reason why the bulk of her audience are here, and it’s true that there are a few in the crowd who are clearly too young to have ever heard of Abby the radio host or Louise Thorton (‘Did you ever see Ratatouille?’ she asks a teen, before whirling on the rest of the audience to explain, ‘I’m just trying to make a connection.’)
Partially because of the tangential nature of her delivery, Garofalo is less interested in the larger set-pieces or themes that allow other stand-up hours to hang together, and indeed some of the audience who are expecting her to expound on her political stance or feminist views may feel slightly frustrated: He Who Did Not Win The Election only gets a cursory mention (and then only to acknowledge that he won’t be discussed), and there is certainly less anger and – yes, a strident tone – than many might have been hoping for. It’s possible that she’s softening her set for the uptight Brits (she jokingly apologises for using the word ‘menopause’ at one point), but it’s unlikely: she keeps the cultural references US-centric (it’s our job to keep up) and is as demandingly funny when riffing on buying art supplies as when referring to historical genocide (yes, the subjects do change around quite a bit).
The hour honestly feels like it could be different every night (Garofalo appears genuinely surprised when the light at the back of the room warns her the hour is up: ‘I’ve been doing this since 1985; you’d think I’d have a system’), and it seems like she’s only beginning to get started when the sixty minutes are over. Successfully, she presents the persona of someone with whom you could spend an hour (and the next four), clinking a bottle of (non-alcoholic) beer with, setting the world to rights, demanding a better future for our children – and then getting distracted by daytime TV. Like an evening spent with a good friend, you may not remember the jokes in detail - but you will want to keep the diary free for next time.