SOHO THEATRE W1
UNTIL 11 DECEMBER 2021
REVIEW by SUSAN GRAY
Never going to laugh again; mid life soul has got no titter. Leaving stand up Megan Stalter’s show at Soho Theatre last night, my sad conclusion was it’s going to be a mirthless existence from now on. All around millennials were rolling in the aisles, and I just didn’t get it. Just like that, age has withered my funny bone, or amputated it by stealth.
Already a TV star in the US, and a YouTube sensation over lockdown with her strange, Midwestern church ladies, Ohio raised Stalter certainly knows how to hold an audience and command a stage. The opening premise of the set is that she’s on stage with her accompanying guitarist ex husband, while her hot, academically and anatomically blessed new husband Skylar is backstage. Nipping into the wings for ‘a big wet kiss’ with Skylar, Stalter informs the audience they achieved a sexual first, and all in record time.
The next conceit of the show is that it is being filmed for television, so the introduction has to be repeated. Cue lot of stop-start guitar strumming, and audience participation. As Stalter invited (possibly prepped) punters on stage ‘to step into the learning zone’ so they could become comedy hosts for her imaginary TV show, she took control of every part of the room. Balcony shufflers were ticked off for being ghosts, hat -wearers were told to remove their headgear ‘It’s not a baseball game’, and the theatre technician was chided for playing the ‘wrong’ track and firing up ‘sarcastic’ disco stage lights. Segments of individual rows were highlighted for giving off bad energy. ‘I don’t mean to call anyone out’ Salter would rasp, shielding her eyes and directing her scary gaze to the nearest seats. ‘You’re giving me PE teacher’, was her note for the volunteer comedy host, as he tried to make it from high stool to mic in three paces. My favourite line was to a man rearranging his coat in a very cold auditorium, ‘You can’t have a coat that big and not draw attention to yourself’, a reworking of the Victoria Wood classic ‘Don’t mind me, you get that mac folded’.
Stalter is to be applauded for reclaiming the sparkly dress, stage and microphone from magician’s assistants and beauty queens, and moving the framework for relationship comedy light years away from mother-in-law jokes and ‘I call her my first wife.’ She is an impressive force for comedy and women’s empowerment, and I would have loved to see more of mean church girl ‘I’m praying for you’ Kensey from Stalter’s videos. Instead the only strange church lady present was me, wondering if I’m really ready for a comedic future consisting solely of Michael McIntyre asking ‘Have you ever wondered…’ Or maybe there’s a whole new comedy world calling me in, I just need to get it.