There are those of a particular 90’s vintage for whom Janeane Garofalo will always have a place in their hearts. The diminutive actress was a welcome ball of snark and sass in several films like The Truth about Cats and Dogs, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, and Mystery Men. She specialised in characters who balanced cynicism with a lovable vulnerability; a delicate balance that few have mastered since. It’s this fondness that has drawn many of the sizable crowd to the Wine Bar at the Gilded Balloon, but it’s not long before she starts testing this goodwill.
“I’d be excellent at a filibuster,” she states of her loose style as she instantly throws away any structure she had in mind, content to revert to stream-of-consciousness chatter that leaves the audience in paroxysms of nervous giggles and awkward silences. There’s nothing wrong with a conversational style of course – free-form riffing can be tremendously fruitful if you hit the right rhythm – but too often the constant tangents and digressions dissipate into nothing. Garofalo interrupts one train of thought to mention James Spader. However, once she takes the time to explain who the Sex, Lies and Videotape actor is to some baffled younger members of the audience, she never returns to the anecdote so we’re left wondering what she had mind as she hurtles off down some other road to nowhere.
To be fair to Garofalo, she does refer often to this approach, all self-deprecation as she acknowledges this tendency to drift away from a thread as something else occurs to her. However, directing the audience to these faults simply makes them all the more glaring. It’s frustrating as she’ll occasionally focus enough to deliver a proper zinger that draws genuine laughter from the crowd, and remind you that she is a highly-regarded standup of some thirty years standing.
While there are relatively few standup shows at the Fringe that will guarantee a completely new experience with each show, there isn’t enough substance to her meandering to justify return visits. Garofalo never entirely loses the crowd as she’s still enough of an engaging presence that spending time in her company is a pleasant experience, but Put a Pin in It is unstructured and self-indulgent with little to actually say; the very title suggesting something to be addressed later. She just about gets away with it, but it’s a close thing.