At the Pleasance Courtyard, comedian Angela Barnes opens her show by telling the audience that she has been described as self-deprecating many times in the past, and is careful to point out that this should not be confused with self-loathing. Barnes doesn’t hate herself—in fact she has invested a lot of time in making sure she doesn’t hate herself—but her comedy does come from the gritty reality about how she feels about herself, how she came to accept herself, and her desire for people not to be “lookist” (a word she uses to describe society’s obsession with judging people based purely on their appearance).
Barnes is a rising comedy star and a return performer to the Edinburgh Fringe, having debuted last year. She has a string of television credits to her name and it is easy to see why. She is likeable—the audience are on her side from the off. She has a witty repartee and a down-to-earth normality, which makes her ideal fodder for the Fringe and for the Pleasance.
However, it is is not all jokes. As Barnes starts to explain her darker days, the show loses some comedic value, as we are plunged into a tale of mental health issues, low self-esteem and resultant cognitive behavioural therapy. Yet, this story is essential—it shows both how Barnes came to be a comedian and perhaps what makes her stand out from the crowd now. As she wraps up her show, she brings back the laughs with a string of quirky and bizarre Twitter responses to an article she wrote for the Guardian, and the crowd leave happy but with some deeper issues to mull over as well.