Liza Treyger: In the Weeds | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Liza Treyger: In the Weeds

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

New York-based Liza Treyger starts by issuing a sorry/not sorry apology for bringing notes on stage. She acknowledges that it’s disrespectful towards the audience, but it also marks out that she’s doing this on her own terms, that it’s entirely down to her whether she learns her set or not.

Not that In The Weeds seems especially heavy on structure or perfectly-honed chunks of material that must be committed to memory, though that’s surely an illusion. Treyger is an opinionated woman with a lot to say about the world and especially herself, and this is her platform for a non-stop download of those instinctual thoughts.

In the least revelatory section of the show, she mentions that she’s in therapy, and this confessional monologue seems an extension of that, but without the need for any questions to prompt her. She’s fast-talking and prone to distraction, apparently freewheeling from one thought to the next in an invigorating ride.

Incidentally, a straw poll of the smallish audience finds that most are in therapy, too – though they are also mostly American. Her reputation might not have spread too widely across the UK, a Netflix half-hour comedy special notwithstanding, but this refreshing outburst of frank self-awareness could rectify that, even if she doesn’t make many concessions to whether we get her references or not. Uncompromising to the end.

Pouring delicious scorn on small-town living, she says she moved to New York because of Sex And The City but finds herself living a life far removed from Carrie Bradshaw’s, inhabiting a squalid apartment and filling her days with smoking dope, watching niche porn, scrolling through Instagram and comfort-eating. There’s some underlying theme of reluctant self-improvement – hence the therapist – but it’s against her every natural impulse.

Besides, the laughs come from the bad stuff. ‘That’s not so much a joke as a moment of my life I wish didn’t happen,’ she says at one point.

Treyger previously lived in Chicago but was born in Odessa, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union (she says she has a thyroid problem from Chernobyl) and her unsentimental upbringing is a rich source of anecdotes drawing laughs from the differences from Western-style mollycoddling.

It’s a wide-ranging set: circumcision documentaries, feminism, public toilet etiquette… There’s a gravitational pull towards the seedier side of life, made funny by a no-nonsense attitude that stubbornly doesn’t try to pretty things up. 

The tone, her pace, the underpinning truth and the relentless gag rate means every part of the show would work in a club, but beneath it all, there is more of an arc and cohesion than her superficial randomness and penchant for a dirty joke would suggest. Treyger offers an ideal slice of seedy late-night comedy, with attitude to spare and a keen self-aware wit. 

Review date: 7 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Bristo Square

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