Something struck me early on in Lucy Porter’s latest show, People Person, and that was the lack of cynicism, anger or snark, all of which seem to infuse so much of modern comedy and comedy performance. It is something which is even more noticeable come the end of the show and the big reveal. Something that Porter could very justifiably be angry about is instead presented as quirky and cause for a little introspection.
The lack of cynicism was something which, initially, I found a little disconcerting. Isn’t modern comedy there to rail against in insanities and inanities of modern life? Isn’t it about fighting back? About blowing off steam? But it was refreshing to see a show which, even when dealing with the crude sexism of hecklers, was bright and positive.
Porter is a delightful stage presence, not an out-and-out gagsmith and just about the polar opposite of a Jimmy Carr. There’s barely a line you can take away and tell your friends to illustrate her skills, but skills she definitely has.
People Person is structured around one long anecdote of a chance meeting with a ‘new friend’, but with many other diversions along the way. In fact, the new friend may be the destination but the journey primarily deals with motherhood and how her life has changed since the arrival of her “Irish twins”, as well as distractions such the reader reviews on the Argos website.
Porter has a keen narrative sense, keeping the story moving and pulling out details where necessary – the trip to John Lewis with her gay friend being a particular stand-out. The show is never dull and the audience – smaller than the show deserves – is always laughing.
All in all, People Person was a very entertaining hour and a half in the company of an unusually likable and pleasant performer. However…
… there are moments when you glimpse what could have been. Short detours into the world of stand-up comedy clubs, being a support act for puppetry of the penis, hecklers and the casual misogyny that can follow women anywhere shows that Porter has both the insight and the makings of material to produce a show which could say something a bit more. It’s hard to shake the feeling that while People Person is very entertaining, it is, in many ways, caught up in some trivialities and that lurking in the corners and recesses of the show there is something bigger that could be said.
For the past year, a friend of mine has been running the Bristol-based female only (performers, not audience, all are welcome) comedy nights under the title What The Frock, something which has blossomed while also being on the receiving end of some ludicrous bile due to the ‘sexism’ of not employing men as performers. Before my friend did this, sexism in comedy was not really something I paid much attention to. Now I’ve started to notice how male dominated many panel shows tend to be (look at Have I Got News For You or QI as notable examples), though those on Radio 4 tend to do better, especially the Sandi Toksvig hosted News Quiz.
I bring this up because the bits of the show that stood out to me were those detours that started to examine the sexism unfortunately often inherent in the job. That said, she does highlight how being pregnant or having children can come to define a woman. This can be a bit of a standard trope, but it’s the way in which Porter brings something fresh to it that makes you long for her to take the subject further – Porter is, in the eyes of a journalist, no longer a comedian but a mum-edian, leading her to query whether, if she decided to off him there and then, she would be seen as a mum-derer – but this line of enquiry is soon dealt with and we move on with the narrative.
But these complaints are minor, and perhaps spring more from my own interests than the needs of the show. Equally, it may be that Lucy has dealt with these issues at length before (there’s certainly reference to them in the clip at the foot of this page), so maybe I should just shut up about it, or watch more of her older material. Indeed, I do want to stress how enjoyable the evening was and that my other half enjoyed the show even more than I did. While this was just the first time we had seen her perform, rest assured we will be there on the next tour, and the one after that.
And here’s a link to a short snippet of Lucy Porter live, some years ago. Unfortunately it seems Lucy (or her people) have disabled embedding of this clip, but it’s worth clicking through to: