Aisling Bea

Aisling Bea

Winner of So You Think You're Funny? 2012 and nominated for best newcomer at the 2013 Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award
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The Comedy Lineup Season 2

Netflix series reviewed by Steve Bennett

As Andy Warhol surely meant to say: 'In the future, everyone will have a Netflix special for 15 minutes.'

The streaming giant released the second series of its Comedy Lineup at the weekend, the mini-specials designed to introduce audiences to a newer breed of comedians away from its multi-million-dollar signings.

Here's our verdict on the new batch:

Janelle James

The first in the series doesn't feel like it was the first to be recorded. Why? Because the theatre audience need no warming up, laughing vocally at every gag. Those watching at home might need a little more time to make the comedian's acquaintance, even if the short running time mean there's little time for introductions.

It seems quite easy to get the measure of Janelle James: she's a nihilist who thinks humanity's on its way out, so she needn't bother with any sort of self-improvement. This point of view occasionally manifests in a dark edge, but generally sets the mood for a mood cheery grumpiness, resigned to fate.

She gets laughs from attitude alone, pouring scorn on things that vex her with nothing more than a WTF! expression, where you might hope for a sharper joke. But there's nuance to her swagger, such as the fact she rags on white folk, but lives among them in her suburban neighbourhood.

And she evokes amusing images on the likes of manipulative public marriage proposals, and a wry story of her 13-year-old son having his confidence crushed when he discovered the cost of cinema snacks, which she amusingly paints as an analogy for life.

Matteo Lane

'Hello, I'm obviously gay,' trills as Matteo Lane takes to the stage, singing the line as if it were a line from a show tune. No big surprise, then – and even if this brief burst shows only the surface of his vocal talents, a prelude to him showing his fuller range later.

His super-camp demeanour is a familiar one, though well deployed when describing the freak show that is Lindsay Lohan's Instagram account.

His more traditonal dad, a keen hunter, tried to make him 'man up' but to no avail, as recalled in an anecdote that doesn't quite catch light.

Lane also describes being miserable and alone in Ohio with only Grinder for company, which is a more amusing take than most on this well-mined topic. While another of his big obsessions is Shark Tank – Dragon Den to us Brits – even his impression of Barbara from the show won't mean much beyond the US borders.

Aisling Bea

The sole representative from this side of the Atlantic (though Phil Wang made his mark in season one), Aisling Bea amusingly portrays Ireland as being unrelentingly Catholic and so white, with a withering description of the dubious attractions of Dublin's cost-conscious wax museum.

But she has been obsessed by the melting-pot culture US since a child, the promised land of glamour depicted in the magic glowing box int he corner of her room, and brings out the sharp contrast between how Irish and American men approach dating. Meanwhile she has a witty rejoinder to those who think women aren't funny - beyond her very existence disproving that bigotry, of course.

It's the language of the States that really tickles her, though, with an amusing, adoring description of the efficiency and versatility of the single interjection: 'Such my dick!' That she repeats with vigour, providing a repetitive beat to this assured set that will only boost her every-growing US career.

Josh Johnson

Eloquent and elegant Josh Johnson entertains with his character sketches, but gets a bit bogged down in the specifics of his weird uncle and appalling cook of a cousin without quite bringing them to life.

He sprinkles his routine with astute lines, sardonic without being sneery, including a site-specific take on he trope of the racist old woman grabbing her handbag when he's close.

But the substance of the set – including an insistence that animals don't have existential crises or that white privilege is a myth when it comes to the poor – doesn't quite engage the attention.

Emma Willmann

In the same way Bea relished the power of 'suck my dick', Emma Willmann enjoys the phonetics of 'crushing that dick', even if her sexuality means its only ever used ironically.

She raises laughs with the story of her progressive but proper mum in her small Maine town of 800 people – perfectly OK that her daughter uses a dildo but insisting on a certain etiquette – as well as impersonating the butch 'Tina'.

However, Willmann's insistence that 'I've gotta stop using her real name,' when talking about Tina is not the only time she slips into the hack: the double meaning of the 'slow children' sign is the oldest of hats.

She's an engaging and winning personality, though, and we do come away with a strong impression of who she is after her 15 minutes.

Max Silvestri

Silvestri dusts down some familiar lines, too, from thinking a selfie has something to do with masturbation to worrying about what strangers might think if they saw the notes about his comedy set out of context. But he does have a particularly unique, first-hand twist on the latter.

He's a straight wide dude who accepts – indeed welcomes – the fact that his type's reign is almost over, confessing, like so many comics, that he's no alpha male.

Proclaiming his preference to female company Silvestri tells a couple of stories, about the intimacy his other half describes from a girls' weekend away, which is a bit too sniggeringly obsessed with buttholes, while fearing that living next to school impinges on his own 'selfie' time.

He consistently goes for the low, cheap laughs, and while that's effective, it's not so edifying.

JR De Guzman

A winsome chap – and another comic to point out he's no 'man's man' – JR De Guzman is a low-key Filipino-American musical comedian who has clearly been inspired by the intelligent, nerdy whimsy of Demetri Martin. Although he's doomed to come off second best in any such comparison with his polymath predecessor –  because who wouldn't?

There's a lot of self-referential drollery: 'That song has a weird ending', he might comment, or dryly suggest that his ditty about interracial babies will 'end racism forever'. It's the sort of faux boast that's a well-trodden style now, tired almost.

Meanwhile, the subjects of his comedy, such as Southern folk being inbred, doesn't live up to the intellectual ambition of the comics whose footsteps he hopes to follow in.

Kate Willett

A clear highlight of this batch, Kate Willett offers her take on these #metoo times, including a straight-up account of what was 'definitely sexual harassment' during her early days in comedy.

After a relatively safe start about training men in relationships – and why that's too much faff – she embarks on a hard-hitting routine that covers many feminism touchstones.

She calls out 'immature' men, bemoans how universal porn has affected sexual expectations, champions reproductive rights and tackles slut-shaming. Crucially she wants the freedom to be just as much as a slobby loser as any man, seeing not only a glass ceiling, but a 'glass gutter'.

Although her material is groaning with relevance, it's also effortlessly funny, thanks to the authenticity of her stories and her breezy, style. Her explanation of why dick pics are a thing is especially fine, hitting the issue squarely on the, erm, head.


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Published: 4 Sep 2018


‘Damned if they do, damned if they don’t’…


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Aisling Bea: C’est La Bea


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