Mary O’Connell

Mary O’Connell

A runner-p in the 2020 Funny Women Awards, Mary O’Connell's TV credits include BBC Presents: Stand Up for Live Comedy and Comedy Central Live.
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Mary O'Connell: Money Princess

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

There’s an unresolvable hypocrisy at the heart of Mary O’Connell’s messy but intriguing debut in that she thinks capitalism is absurd and corrosive but absolutely loves to shop, getting a kick from disposable consumerism.

She sets out her stall by proclaiming her love for money. A competitive soul, she has to win, and wealth is a measure of success. Why waste time having fun when that could be spent swelling the bank account?

Though it sounds tongue-in-cheek, these opening comments are delivered sincerely, not as some parody of an amoral free-marketeer. She is the titular princess, revelling in nice clothes and other finer things in life (but also with an eye for a Sainsbury’s meal deal). On one hand, she thinks work is inherently absurd and has some imaginatively funny takes on the 9-to-5 – but on the other, she would never date some loser like an aspiring DJ who shuns a regular salary and a decent pension.

She’s a complicated character, that’s for sure. One TV insider once told her that any comedian cannot have more than three identifying personality types outside of the perceived ‘neutral’, else they might confuse the audience. And as a brown, queer woman – none of them things she could do much about – all the boxes were pre-ticked. But it’s quickly clear that O’Connell has dozens of different traits, some of them contradictory.

While she’s a charismatic, conversational comedian, she also admits to wanting to be let off the leash to indulge her ‘silly billy’ tendencies in her work (but she’s absolutely not a clown - she’s clear about those losers). But many industry gatekeepers can’t get their head around that. They believe that as she’s not white, race has to define her work, she can’t be an absurdist too.

She has, as it happens, got something to say on white people via Big Candle’s grip on the middle-class white demographic or the empty Girl Boss feminism that puts slogans in place of real issues. However, this is but a well-observed aside or two, not her everything.

Her thorny relationship with money got even more complicated when she won a sizeable sum in a bizarre reality show-style comedy competition organised by OnlyFans, of all people. It was a horrible, manipulative experience by O’Connell’s revealing account, in which the porn-dominated site spent a small fortune on ensuring no comedian will ever want to go near them again.

While her slippery opinions - crudely reduced to ‘can money make you happy?’ - are not bound by logic, the way she shares them fizzes with life. She’s a confident, playful performer – taking to the stage by firing fake banknotes into the audience – making her personality's unpredictability and her trains of thought an asset. 

Ambiguity is a tricky stance to pull off, and a few moments here don’t quite come off. And while you have to pay attention to keep up with her ducking and diving, she has charisma to make that an easy ask.

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Published: 6 Aug 2023


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