At the age of 63, many of Helen Lederer’s peers are now putting their feet up with a cuppa and a daily dose of Sudoku, but having made her Edinburgh debut in 1982, this trailblazer is back where it all started, despite confessing that she still finds stand-up truly terrifying.
Her new show, I Might as Well Say It, takes the audience on a wry, no-holds-barred journey through a long and varied career. Aside from her well known role in AbFab (which barely gets a mention), Lederer focuses on some of her more random but highly amusing milestones, which range from a one-day stint as a VIP masseuse in a Soho gentlemen’s parlour to manic cake-munching on the set of Miss Marple and latterly making a splash on the eponymous TV show.
The humour is often cutting, with side swipes at fellow comediennes, several nods to the late, great Rik Mayall and fantasies about Robert Peston in a tracksuit. In places she verges on the slightly too crude, promising to cut some jokes that only receive a grudging giggle. This show isn’t side-splitting, but the laughter ripples gently and merrily along. With an easy conversational style, Lederer does sometimes lose her thread and asks for audience prompts. However this scatty, post-menopausal, and at times self-deprecating act doesn’t fool anyone. This is a consummate professional at work and with her incredible piercing blue eyes, Lederer’s stage presence makes each quip and remark feel personal to the viewer.
Levity, wit and some searingly-candid observations help to carry the show’s darker subjects, as the spotlight focuses in turn on her chronic asthma, lifelong weight struggles and anxiety. The ageism of showbiz is also laid bare, and in view of this, Lederer’s long career as a comedienne and actress is testament to her multiple and enduring talents. Those feeling nostalgia for the breakthrough acts of the 80s should hotfoot it down to Bristo Square to see one of the true originals.