LA-based writer, actor, and stand-up comedian Atsuko Okatsuka comes to the Fringe fresh off the news that she’s lined up her first comedy special for HBO and been named one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch. Her show The Intruder is a solid hour of entertaining storytelling, great laughs, and a tiny bit of audience mockery.
Okatsuka is easily spooked, especially by teenagers with their coolness and ability to heal quickly. Raised by her grandmother, Okatsuka finds it difficult to relate to younger people, with cultural reference points two generations above her own. Some of the tales the comedian’s grandmother told her, particularly in relation to sex have the audience in absolute fits. Being easily scared will become even more of an issue when recounting the story of an intruder at her house earlier this year and the chaos that ensued.
Through the telling of the tale of the man who climbed to the top of a very steep hill (past two other homes) to intrude on her property, we discover more about the comedian’s background, how she came to be raised by her grandmother and the surprising thing she has in common with her husband. Her husband’s reaction to the intruder is completely at odds with Okatsuka’s. He’d be the one running into danger in a horror movie, not shying away. We discover that their shared life experience may have prepared them for danger, even if they have their own way of processing that fear. The stand-up also has a hilarious bit where she imagines mental illnesses renamed after rides at Disney, and ponders whether we’d be more comfortable talking about schizophrenia if we called it ‘Splash Mountain’.
Okatsuka is great at crowd work, especially with an audience member who refuses to make eye contact. The gentle mocking is funny for those of us who manage to hold her gaze and it’s all in good humour. Being in Okatsuka’s company is an absolute joy. With some punchy one-liners and excellent storytelling, it’s a delightful way to spend an hour.