Jenny Eclair's 'Because I Forgot To Get A Pension' tour

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Jenny Éclair’s audience is not your typical comedy crowd. It’s 80 per cent women, and about three-quarters of them are over 40. This is a clearly defined girls’-night-out demographic who recognise Éclair as one of their own.

The subject matter is suitably skewed, at times reading like the checklist of every patronising women’s magazine around: shopping, dieting, body issues… She talks about pigging out and being fat – even though she looks scrawny as ever from the middle of the stalls. But at 47, the thing that most concerns the voice of the family tax credit commercials is her advancing age. She may mock the idea of Menopause The Musical, but she works in exactly the same field.

Every concern of her similarly middle-aged audience is ticked off and addressed – and in return they squeal in delight at someone mentioning topics they can relate to. She doesn’t even have to say especially funny about them – and far too frequently doesn’t – it’s all about identifying with the kindred spirit on stage.

This cynical approach reaches its depressing nadir in a segment where she simply starts listing things that annoy her: ‘Yummy Mummies? Fuck off. Two-for-one offers when you don’t want two? Fuck off. Paris Hilton? Fuck off…’ the list goes on. But she doesn’t say anything about any of them, hoping that simply mentioning them with aggressive enough attitude will pass as humour. And yes, they do get those laughs of identification.

That thinking pervades much of the show. Whatever topic she picks, she never seems to say anything, just complain bitterly that that it’s rubbish. It’s an hour of oral sex, chicken fillets in the bra, of being a ‘functioning middle-class alcoholic’ whiling away her nights in a wine-induced stupor in front of Midsomer Murders. The persona she creates is titanium-strong, but the writing to back it up falls short.

You can do this sort of material with skill and honesty, as Victoria Wood has proved, but Éclair tackles it with the subtlety of a pantomime dame, perhaps in the hope that the volume of performance will hide the gaps in the material. Despite her complaints of decrepitude, she’s not short of energy: crawling over the chaise longue or lolloping around on the floor to make her points. This is not the naturalism of most stand-up, but a loud, in-your-face grotesque, gurning, shrieking and overacting her way through one shrill observation after the next. Eclair has become a caricature of her already exaggerated self, a bleached-blonde pterodactyl squawking away.

She eases back on the excesses a bit as the show goes on, but you’re always aware she’s performing, rather than just talking to you. But as the tone lowers, she offers tantalising glimpses of something deeper, of genuine personal concerns rather than simply ticking off those things that would advance her persona of an aging harpy. The fear of impending empty-nest syndrome, seems sincere: that when her 18-year-old daughter leaves home, her life will be reduced to marital tedium, awaiting death’s blessed relief.

But before we hear too much more, we’re back on less interesting ground, with a closing routine in which her predatory instincts towards the actor James McAvoy give way to the stronger lust of a bag of chips and a quiet life.

Such fundamental changes in her life would be rife for exploitation in the name of comedy, so it’s shame she squanders the chance in favour of such broad brushstrokes – even if the gangs of girls enjoying a raucous night out might disagree.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 2 Oct 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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