Words Shawn Moodie
Armed with a dry and sharp wit, and disarmingly eloquent turn of phrase rising Scottish comedian Fern Brady delivered a compelling hour of comedy that left me absolutely speechless.
The comedian has a growing reputation both here and abroad, and as I escaped the bucketing rain on a typically cold winter’s Saturday in Auckland, I was met by a Basement Theatre heaving with comedy-goers enjoying a pre-show drink or three before the show.
I sat myself behind a couple in the front row who were nervously discussing the likelihood of being selected for a little audience participation, little did they know that said audience participation would involve Brady humorously giving away the contents of Comedy Festival performers goodie bag, which much to her wry disappointment was filled with nothing but mayonnaise products.
While a sore throat might spell disaster for a lesser comedian, Brady’s sore throat had the opposite effect – heightening the comedic impact of her flat, gravelly voice and disarming Trainspotting accent.
Brady’s approach to humour is a mix of the autobiographical yarns and the comedian’s viewpoints on everything from class, gender, politics, sexuality, and mental health. Nothing is off-limits and over the course of an hour we’re treated to Brady’s dry takes on the stupidity of Brexit voters, Republican Senators having sex with young boys, and how amusing the idea of the sanctity of marriage is to her.
Brady uses an interaction with a Northern Irish taxi driver to deftly chastise men who still question women’s role in comedy (“A female comedian, how do you make any money?!”), before expanding her target to discuss gender politics more broadly.
Our cousin’s overseas aren’t left off the hook either as the comedian took Austrlia to task for their inherent homophobia, which is highlighted by a cringe-worthy breakfast radio interview.
Self-deprecating and droll, Brady has the audience along with her the whole night as she turns that sharp wit on herself as much as others. Throughout the hour we’re given a glimpse into her lifelong struggles with mental health (Brady has struggled with severe anxiety and has self-diagnosed as borderline autistic), to working in a job which saw her serving eggs to paedophiles, and repressing the urge to murder her boyfriend.
As the night went on the comedian upped the ante considerably with with painfully honest anecdotes about being kicked out of a party while attempting to exact drug-addled revenge on an ex-boyfriend’s new partner, to a horrifying account of surviving an attempt on her life at the hands of another ex-boyfriend.
Brady worked hard to find a balance between stark emotional honesty and humour, peppering each story with enough gut-wrenching laughs to keep the audience on her side. The best example of this was the segue which discussed how her heartbreak and need to fund a journalism internship and a university degree on Islamic history led her to becoming, in her words, the UK’s worst stripper (largely because of her inability to either dance sexily or handle smalltalk).
The gleeful way which Fern Brady was able to interweave deeply personal stories with sharp social critiques elevated Suffer, Fools! beyond the standard festival fare. The master conversationalist bravely ‘went there’ throughout her set and her ability to turn her anxieties and flaws into gags delighted her audience. I can comfortably say that last night Fern Brady delivered one of the most captivating comedic performances that I’ve had the pleasure to review.