Zoe Coombs Marr: Trigger Warning

Comedians regularly perpetuate the idea that they sacrifice part of themselves for their art. As humble as many claim to be, and as much as they deride their counterparts in the theatre for talking about the price one pays to make art, comedians are often the first to cite the tragic clown as a metaphorical representation of themselves. In this reprise of her 2016 award-nominated show Trigger Warning, Zoe Coombs-Marr dismantles the self-righteousness of stand-up comedy, among many other things, and it is endlessly refreshing to watch.

Trigger Warning is, most importantly, a very funny show with a memorable character at its core.

Trigger Warning, a follow-up to her 2015 Fringe show Dave, continues the arc of the character of Dave, a chauvinist with a loud mouth and thin skin. Constantly self-aware, even before Dave dives down a meta-narrative rabbit hole in this show, Zoe Coombs-Marr is masterfully skilled at making sure the audience never begins to agree with her misogynist alter ego. This show goes through multiple acts, but throughout all of them the only redemptive feelings the audience has towards Dave are those of pity. It is a testament to Coombs-Marr’s writing and performing abilities then that the show still manages to be so funny. We laugh at Dave more than we laugh with him, but Coombs-Marr is talented enough to make the audience feel like this is more than just laughs at the expense of a fabricated fool.

It is the mark of a talented performer to make their audience feel something while simultaneously making them laugh. It is clearly not all Zoe Coombs-Marr is aiming for with this performance, although the moments of reluctant clowning from her character initially tickle the most easily reachable funny bones. Even these moments become laden with pathos and storytelling later on, as Coombs-Marr reveals that the show is about more than laughing at an idiot. Delving into talking about feminism, as well as the differences between her and her comic creation may put small-minded audience members off, but Coombs-Marr is refreshingly unafraid of alienating those unwilling to listen. Using her humour to create a platform that she then uses to make her points, every moment of Trigger Warning not used purely to make the audience laugh is thoroughly earned.

Trigger Warning is, most importantly, a very funny show with a memorable character at its core. There are already a handful of shows like this at the Fringe though, so it is what she uses this memorable character and her own personal response to it for that makes this show such a unique and memorable experience. Zoe Coombs-Marr mentions regularly in the show that Dave is a part of her, but rather than dwell on what she has lost to gain him, she instead uses this show to prove that Zoe and Dave make a horrific but hilarious double act.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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The Blurb

Zoe Coombs Marr returns with her monstrous character, Dave, for three nights only. Dealing with the fallout of his first show and Twitter threats from scary feminists, Dave’s given up stand-up and turned to the serious clown training of Gaulier. Watch as a hack stand-up attempts a silent clowning show that won’t offend anyone. Winner: Melbourne Comedy Festival Barry Award 2016 – Best Show. Nominee: Lastminute.com Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2016 – Best Show. ‘Daring, high-wire comedy at its best.’ ***** (Chortle.co.uk). ‘Thrillingly silly portrait of trad stand-up’ **** (Guardian). ‘Deliriously funny’ **** (Evening Standard).