There is an incredible sense of comfort that I feel upon entering the Dining Room at Gilded Balloon to see Jay Lafferty’s Blether. It’s still a strange situation at Teviot. This particular venue, usually holding a maximum of 120 seats, is now a 48 seater, with social distancing very much in place. My first in-person comedy gig since I can remember, Jay is, unusually, on the stage welcoming people to their seats, breaking the wall between performer and audience and immediately putting us at ease. This was something I didn’t even know I needed as an audience member – just somebody telling me things were okay.
'Blether' is a masterclass in stand-up comedy
At the beginning of Blether, Jay’s first full show since 2019, she wonders to the audience if the pandemic has made her forget how to be a comic. I can definitively say it hasn’t. Live comedy is most certainly back and it is fantastic to see.
Jay’s shows have always had a distinct charm about them. Even the titles of her previous shows such as Wheesht! and Jammy (now a radio series) bring a smirk to any Scot’s face. From the outset, it’s clear that Blether is no different. The opening routine was something that everyone could connect with and, personally, had me a little triggered – the early lockdown purchases of designer loungewear. The great thing about her material on pandemic life (something I’m expecting from almost every comedian this fringe) is that it was relatable without being too general. The jokes were individual enough that many of them could be part of a stand-alone routine in themselves. That’s something that takes talent.
Jay’s also taken on a new role this lockdown: becoming a new mum. The challenges this brings, whether it’s a newfound hatred of Peppa Pig, the struggles of baby massage or the frequency of Zoom calls with family are all on full display here. It’s an expertly crafted routine which runs throughout the set. Jay doesn’t rely on making her child the butt of the joke to secure an easy laugh, rather it is the situations that arise due to having a child that the laughs come from (including some of the official terminology used due to being a mum over a certain age, a term one audience member behind me was more than happy to shout out). It’s a routine with a lot of sharp observations and well-earned laughs.
Her brilliant crowd work in previous shows, as well as Jay’s reputation as one of the best comperes on the circuit today, meant that there was a certain expectation for her to live up to. Naturally, she did not disappoint. Jay’s audience work is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Her banter with the audience is worth the price of admission alone. She has the ability to make people feel as if they were always part of the show and not just an audience member – she remembers people’s names and their stories and she’ll link them back to her routines with absolute ease. These seem like such simple things, but it increases an audience member’s engagement with the performer by making them feel more included and not simply singled out in front of everyone. Jay makes it look effortless but she’s a master at successful crowd work and that deserves a lot of credit.
As we came to the end of the set, I left with a huge grin on my face and a real hope for the Fringe ahead. Blether is a masterclass in stand-up comedy and Jay Lafferty has set the bar incredibly high for other comics of the Fringe.