Camilla Cleese in American...ish, Gilded Balloon, review: 'Surprisingly prickly'

Edinburgh Festival 2014: John Cleese's daughter makes her UK debut

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The Independent Culture

Are funny bones hereditary? Who knows, but Camilla Cleese's famous father has certainly given her a good 10 minutes or so of material.

"My parents set me such a good example. They've been married for almost 42 years... to seven different people." Or how about this? "Recently we got a new child in the family - my new stepmom."

The 30-year old daughter of John Cleese, from his second marriage to the late American artist Barbara Trentham, is making her UK stand-up debut at the Fringe as part of a triple bill of Los Angeles comedians.

At 6ft 1in in her black Converse pumps (her height is the subject of a run of jokes), with long blonde hair, Cleese looks like a supermodel and talks with the laconic vowels of a Valley Girl on Quaaludes. Someone less like John Cleese it is hard to imagine. If it wasn't for those improbably long limbs - "It takes me 45 minutes to shave my legs", she purrs as an opener - you might not believe it at all.

Her material is surprisingly prickly - her messed-up family, myriad problems (she has been in rehab four times) and therapy sessions all come up, though not in any significant depth in a short, 20-minute set.


While not wholly confident on stage - there's a good deal of hair flicking and some awkward segues - when she's on a roll, it's not bad.

Low-energy, a little mean and a little dark - she's not afraid to make an off-colour joke involving short men, dictators and Oscar Pistorius, for example - she delivers her barbs in a nonchalant drawl. A reference to her father's new wife as his "soulmate du jour" is almost tossed away. It's an intriguing debut. 

Cort McCowan and Sarah Tiana make up the bill. The former is a macho American stand-up in the mould of Doug Stanhope but with less interesting material about drunk girls and oral sex. Tiana is a strong closer, a Georgia gal who uses her "dumb" southern background to make some smart observations about dating and men.