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Zoe Lyons: Entry Level Human

at The Stand, Edinburgh

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No accusations of being an entry-level comedian for the excellent Zoe Lyons.

Image of Zoe Lyons: Entry Level Human

One of the joys of living in Edinburgh is seeing the Fringe shows you may have missed rolling round again as part of their touring cycle.  Months down the line, they’re often a different experience than they would be in the August pressure cooker.  In the case of Entry Level Human Zoe Lyons treats us to a greatly expanded version of her show, running at nearly two hours; a pleasurable sprawl of a set that’s never allowed to settle into self-indulgence.

From a gentle beginning thanking the crowd for braving the biting November weather, Lyons branches out into our addiction to technology and its impact on our lives: both “convenient and shit” is her concise take.  She uses her bafflement at a recalcitrant PC (“an entry-level computer,” according to the sniffy engineer called out to diagnose the issue) as an introduction to her central strand: those people who are thorns in the collective sides of society, whether through stupidity, rudeness or both; and she’s more than willing to include herself among the offenders.  It’s a broad umbrella under which to cover a whole host of topics, including bigotry, travel and the inevitable spectre of Brexit.  As such, we’re never far from familiar ground, but Lyons’ is a thorough explorer of her topics.  Her material on Brexit in particular is thoughtful, and seeks to understand the isolationist impulse behind a lot of the voting, finding a tenuous, but not entirely serious, parallel between age and a desire for one’s own company.

It’s a pleasure to be in Lyons’ company as she flows unhurriedly from topic to topic.  The increased length of time allows for some hugely entertaining digressions and tangents.  For instance, her impression of an intrusive fly anthropomorphised as a confused Glaswegian drunk pauses while she considers how specificity increases a laugh.  She’s tried numerous accents in the time she’s been doing that routine, but for some reason Clydeside works best.  It’s hilarious, and also a neat little insight into the writing process.  She also never feels the need to pad out the time with easy audience banter, able to draw on a wealth of material or expand on a joke as another strand or addendum occurs to her.

Lyon’s overarching theme; learning to balance expectation and reality – minimising the ‘misery ditch’ between the two – emerges organically through excellent writing, and there are very few moments that slow the show down; an impressive feat over nearly two hours.  So well-structured is the show in fact, that it becomes possible to see the wealth of callbacks Lyons employs coming.  While this may add a slight air of predictability, it also offers the satisfaction of being on the same wavelength as a tremendously good comic operating at a vertiginous level.  While she may be a fixture on TV screens, Zoe Lyons is at her best live, especially when she’s given the time to be as expansive as she has this evening.