By turns sparkly and scatalogical, Jo Burke brings a jack-of-all-trades approach to her show. Her style ranges from the ridiculous to the inspirational, and the material wanders similarly. There’s the aforementioned scat, the problem of fame, dating, infertility, death — all of that races by, but very little of it has time to settle into a great joke.
It’s frustrating, because the mood is amiable and Burke shows flashes of brilliance. A skit on terrible online dating — which is the focus of her book, also called iScream — is fantastic, as she stops bouncing about the stage to present subtle, slow reactions to OKCupid’s worst offerings.
Burke is better known for her character acts than her stand up, and it shows. There’s a peculiar tension throughout iScream between her stated attempt to do a show as herself for once, and the clear temptation to play up and turn her life into a backstory, her delivery into a character. One moment she pretends Angelina Jolie is her best friend, the next, there’s a heartfelt but sudden speech about her father. It doesn’t end in a joke, but it does make the show feel jerky and more uncomfortable than it should be.
Instead of characters, Burke relies on being naturally funny, which can only take her so far. Her anecdotes are, by and large, amusing, but lack punchlines. Occasionally, they lack jokes. There’s more natter than patter — her interactions with the audience lack wit, although a question and answer device both keeps them onside and helps to paper over the cracks in the show where segues ought to be.Her whacky, high-energy, OTT style carries her through sections that could use a bit of wordplay, but there are few belly laughs to be had, especially as the set goes on.
It’s frustrating, because the mood is amiable and Burke shows flashes of brilliance. A skit on terrible online dating — which is the focus of her book, also called iScream — is fantastic, as she stops bouncing about the stage to present subtle, slow reactions to OKCupid’s worst offerings. And, of course, she brings those pathetic examples of mankind to life with some excellent understated character work. This, more than any other part of the show, feels as if it has had time to breathe and develop. If only more of the set played to this obvious strength.
Instead, an unnecessary multimedia aspect relies on tropes older than the dinosaurs, from a slo-mo run to Chariots of Fire, to an inner voice cueing the next joke with the subtlety of a brick. It’s a let down when the right instincts — an eye for the absurd, an ear for others’ voices — are clearly on show. Unfortunately, the cracks in the construction of the hour swallow up its potential.