As part of Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2019
You can hear Carmen Lynch before you see her, like a quasi-comedic Medea giving a kind of housekeeping announcement in amongst the hellos. “You guys have to play along,” she intones before bounding on stage and opening by making much of the fact she’s an American abroad. It quickly becomes clear that Lynch likes to subvert the standard feminine stereotype by discussing how she doesn’t want to have kids. Joking that taking the pill means, “There’s no closure… you just wonder if you were pregnant,” sets the more-often-than-not caustic tone.
The rest of her material is along similarly warped lines: dating (“I like men over forty – they’ve lost hope”), relationships, health and medical issues (“Does anyone else confuse medical attention for love?”), children, the awkwardness of sex and her relationship with her mother. These are all given a slightly skewed examination as if viewed through a glass half darkly. At times it feels shocking, slightly transgressive but ultimately more trying too hard. Some jokes don’t hit their mark, with comments about AIDS being potentially combated by a corrosive substance like Coca Cola seemingly a bit too much for the audience; a slight groan from some coupled with silence from the rest speaking volumes.
At times it can feel slightly relentless and one-note like a bitterly sarcastic onslaught. The gentler moments elicit more laughs: a description of “marriage night” as being a couple in different rooms whilst one of them falls asleep is a welcome respite from the schlock gloom. Lynch doesn’t really interact with her audience; instead, she talks at them, switching between material with a practised, world-weary sigh of, “Anyway…” There’s something intimidatingly confident about her, a kind of glacial aloofness which doesn’t fully lull or attract. It’s very telling that a sense of genuine warmth is created when she discusses queefing, adopting a very variable Scottish accent to screech the term “fanny fart!” when she learns it.
Lynch’s set is nicely paced and structured with topics following in a logical fashion and even has some callbacks peppered throughout. Some of her lines are so perfectly polished they make lovely quotes, with “Kids are so dumb because they’re new to Earth,” standing out like a pearl of comedic wisdom. When selfishly (of course) praying to Jesus she stops to ask, “Can you just get your dad?”, mainly as he’s older and wiser but principally because Jesus wore sandals. Simple yet perceptive comedy observations like this would be more welcome in the mix. And yet… ultimately though it’s standup which feels slightly unengaging and more of an overt attempt to shock and repel. “You just have to find a line that shuts somebody up,” Lynch teaches at one point. This perfectly sums up her entire approach.