Wednesday, November 19, 2014

'Miss Glory Pearl: The Naked Stand Up' at Mimetic Festival, 18th November 2014

Two seconds in: "Wow, she's really naked!".  Ten seconds in: "I can't believe I'm watching a naked stand up comedian, this is so cool!".  Thirty seconds in: "Okay I get it, what now?". Miss Glory Pearl presents me with a somewhat annoying dilemma. See, I'm pretty much your stereotypical Guardian-reading do-gooder.  I live in London. I go on protests. I'm a vegetarian. I shop at Waitrose. You get the picture. Theoretically a naked feminist leftie stand-up comedian doing a show about body positivity is something I should go doolally for. So why was I so damn bored for most of the show?  

The routine consists of a potted history of the performer's life; outlining her history as a burlesque dancer, stripper, secondary school teacher and finally now stand up.  This is mixed with a talk about the legal ramifications of nudity, the body fascism of women's magazines and finally trying to salve the audience's own internalised self-disgust.

Credit where credit's due; doing a stand-up show butt naked takes serious gumption. I've done performance pieces in just my pants and wondered if I should be completely naked, but told myself it would distract from the rest of the performance (though there was a definite element of cowardice involved too).  So simply being so this confident while naked in front of a crowd earns Glory Pearl some kudos, if only for bravery.

Thing is, once we've gotten over the initial novelty of her nudity there's not much of substance here.  The routine has a tendency to slide into inspirational cliche - I can't argue with the basic sentiment that people should be happy in their own skin - but it's still a rather obvious observation and not a rich seam of humour.

The low points come in an excruciatingly awkward audience interaction bit where we're told to point to part of our body we don't like. Pearl singles out audience members at random to explain to us what we're ashamed of and why, followed by her awkwardly trying to explain that it isn't so bad after all.  A man pops his hand up with and says he hates his beer belly and gets told to think of all the times he's spent drinking with his friends and remember how much he enjoyed the takeaways he's eaten.  In essence to 'love his belly'.

I hate this feel good crap.  Self-loathing has always been a decent motivator in my book; if there's a part of your body that you're ashamed of, exercise and eating better do wonders for fixing that, not acceptance.  By the time Pearl is singing the praises of lying on the sofa, watching TV and eating a "dirty Dominos" I felt a little depressed.  I get that you can do whatever you want with your body and however anyone looks is basically okay, but that doesn't mean that motionless consumption of junk food is something to cheer on.  It just feels like a rather boring, limited and sad set of pleasures.

By the end any surprise at Pearl's nakedness has long-since vanished and we're left with a routine that feels a bit like watching an episode of Loose Women. As in it's not particularly funny.  So there was the odd polite chuckle, but never any particularly huge eruptions of laughter and the crowd didn't seem particularly enthused during the interactive bits either.

I'll grant you that I'm not the target audience for this show, but the impression I was left with was that the nakedness was a shock factor to conceal a pretty humdrum routine.

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