Speaking to those of us in her audience who have never seen her perform before, Tiff Stevenson says ‘You’re so lucky… I remember seeing me for the first time. I was amazing.’ Stevenson is a confident, assured performer, who is not only confident in herself – ‘I’m a sexually confident woman in my thirties!’ – but in her ability to tackle big issues.
Despite dealing with a lot of negative issues in her set, Stevenson manages to end on a high – if slightly strange – note.
In Mad Man Stevenson discusses a range of important and divisive issues, from racism to sexism, sexuality and homophobia to ideas about body image and how we identify ourselves. This is quite a lot to fit into just an hour, but Stevenson manages to do so with both insight and great humour.
Describing herself as layered, a ‘beautiful, funny onion’, Stevenson’s discussion of body image and how we dress to show who we are is both accurate and heartfelt, especially in her frustration with slogan and band t-shirts. Yes, you do need to be a fan of the band to ‘rock this tee’, she explains, otherwise you’re just being a cultural tease.
Through this, and her explorations of ideas about sexuality – ‘We’re all a bit gay, and that’s fine’ – and skin colour, Stevenson shows various cultural identifiers that make us human and urges that we shouldn’t pretend to be something we aren’t. Stevenson goes so far as to demonstrate this in her imitations of Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea, as well as her use of different accents in pretending to be alcoholic beverages personified in talking about advertising.
Although her discussion of Jack Daniels segues into a very relevant discussion about racism and gun control in the US, this was one section of her set that feels slightly out of place, as she has dealt with the other issues she discusses on a personal level. This is not to say her discussion is not pertinent, however, and indeed, although Stevenson’s set as a whole is very funny, and she comes across and warm and personable, it is clear that there is a real anger and pain behind a lot of what she discusses.
Whether this be editing rap songs to try and make them more empowering, or just less crude, or discussing oppression and privilege through the prism of her travels in the Middle East, Stevenson tackles these issues with understanding, both of the issue at hand at the fact that things need to change. Her frustration is clear, even in the jokes she makes.
Despite dealing with a lot of negative issues in her set, Stevenson manages to end on a high – if slightly strange – note, talking about how all the woman in the audience are building ‘vagina houses’; all women are architects, and what have the men done today in comparison? Stevenson’s set is hard-hitting, confident, at times strange and alarming but always managing to make us laugh, as well as think.