Jay Lafferty: Bahookie | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Jay Lafferty: Bahookie

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Like Hitchcock's famous bomb under the table, Jay Lafferty's pole dancing pole stands to the side of her, untouched for the greater part of her show, less a tease than an object of intimidation.

No fearless and experienced burlesque act, the Scots stand-up has come to the pole tentatively and belatedly, in an attempt to boost her confidence after turning 40.

No longer billed as a 'next big thing' in comedy, plagued with body issues her entire adult life and wanting to feel sexy again, Lafferty was casting around for a way to spice up her life when she began noticing the reaction the dancers got at cabaret nights she was appearing at. Well, it was more impressive than the cheesy patter and misdirection of the magicians, anyway.

A seasoned compere, used to putting a room at ease, Lafferty is careful, perhaps too careful, in framing her taking up of pole-dancing as part of her positive quest for joy. She gently pokes fun at the trend for comedians exploiting their trauma at this Fringe, while quickly declaring support and admiration for the individual acts doing so. But it's something she could maybe lean into more herself.

To be fair, she's already performed emotionally complex shows about her struggles to have a child. And a reminder to seek joy in a cost of living crisis is undoubtedly justifiable for a comic. But the motto of: 'Joy is a radical act' with which she emblazons her therapy diary feels emblematic of a woolly opening, her supposed new life perspective feeling less authentic than forcefully contrived flim-flam for a show.

Far more pruriently compelling and real are the glimpses she gives of her long-term struggles to love her body, the grim comparisons to cooking meat it attracts, and the tale of an erotically dubious student film that she amateurishly performed in.

Moreover, the best routine in the show by a nautical mile is the hilariously bleak, extended account she gives of losing her virginity on a boat, arriving late in the hour when it could possibly have been pushed higher up the running order.

Besides, in terms of conveying uplifting optimism, she's more than catered for by her pole dancing teacher. This gay Fifer guru is the rock-steady confidence boost Lafferty badly needed. And you can really hear it in the brief audio snatches she plays of him.

Mind you, she only follows his advice up to a point. And her finale is a tour-de-force, celebratory climb on the pole, a series of exquisitely paid-off callbacks and choreographed dismissal of her insecurities, with a real sense of personal development, and yes, joy.

More organic than several other comics' closing routines at this festival, simply using showy song or dances numbers to overshadow or shore up the the less than impressive stand-up proceeding it, it's a triumphant moment that's been hard-earned with torn muscles, gritty perseverance and well-structured writing.

Review date: 27 Aug 2023
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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