The lights shining down on Janeane Garofalo's audience might have been set at an inexplicably high level, but expectations of the American comedian were a little low following a public "bombing" at Latitude festival last month where she lasted only minutes into her set before making excuses and leaving.
To open her show with a direct reference to that ("it was in a tent in the middle of the day, give me a break") meant she also "bummed out" those who hadn't heard of her recent failure. Garofalo thus set a tone that was sometimes fractured and apologetic and she appeared to be not as bullet-proof as one might have expected from someone who has notched up appearances in Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, The West Wing, "24" , and Nineties indie-film hits Reality Bites and The Truth about Cats & Dogs.
Sporting a fashionably geeky set of spectacles, her dark hair shaggily styled à la Aerosmith, the 44-year-old comic worked hard not to bomb a second time. She zig-zagged through hackneyed ploys: funny signs you can buy in shops, the insanity of cricket and the ludicrousness of the Homeland Security form given to visitors to the US, a subject that should by now be declared dead to comedy.
One of the central, if derailed, points she was trying to labour was that conservative Americans are "neurologically impaired". The attack, echoing many of her outspoken offstage protestations, was largely unsustained. It appeared that Garofalo, who still referred to her notes on occasion, was not completely ready for her run.
It was only when talking about her own fears and failings – and not those of others – that Garofalo showed what she's capable of. She described dancing next to a man at a Madness concert and revealing to him that she last saw them in 1982. When the man says that he wasn't even born then she exclaims, "There are people who were born in 1989 – did you hear about that?" More of this incredulity was required and shown in routines about her unrepentant attitudes to her past alcoholism ("It's not nuts to drink two bottles of wine, it's just five biggish glasses") and weight problems ("Why do I need a whole pizza? It's delicious that's why!").
While it was a relief to see more than a few minutes of this imported star, it was a shame that the themes were not more fully explored.
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