Review: Mae Martin: Dope, Laughing Horse at City Cafe

Mae Martin’s show is called Dope for, I think, two reasons. One, she talks a lot about drugs, and two, she sometimes likes to give a teenager-y, attention-seeking vibe, the vibe of someone who would use the word “dope” in conversation to mean “good”. An extremely talented comedian who should certainly be at a bigger venue, charging more than a tenner like all the rest of them, Martin always puts on a more welcoming, free show. This time she’s in a small room with boiling temperatures in the basement of the diner-like City Café.

Her show this year consists of a sort of romp through her childhood from age 11 to now. As always, it’s packed, as Fringe-goers have learned that this Bieber-esque, impish Canadian consistently turns out fun, clever comedy full of brilliant characters, keen observation and great points about sexuality and gender. As usual, there is real heart to her show and everything is underscored by an exploration of important issues. As she observes in one of her self-aware asides: “here comes the bit that gets you the good Guardian reviews”.

In Dope, Martin turns to topics perhaps more serious and Guardian-y than we are used to from her. Beginning with light-hearted anecdotes about how strange she was as a child, she then moves into telling the story of her leaving school to pursue comedy at 15, falling into drugs, being kicked out by her parents and going to rehab. All of this is related to us in her characteristic, please-like-me way, with great physicality and timing. Martin excels in so many areas, from doing voices to tying her jokes together neatly with things mentioned earlier in the show. Above all, she knows how to strike a good rapport with her audience and draw us into her world.

Mae Martin became a stand-up comedian in her early teens. As she’s now around 30, I can hardly still call her a wunderkind. But she does seem to have kept hold of a kind of childlike joy. Of course, not all her observations about the world are positive, but I did not meet a more charming or more vaguely optimistic comedian this Fringe and am fairly certain that the entire audience left wanting to be her best friend. Refreshingly non-political and consistently hilarious, she may well be my pick of the Fringe in terms of stand-up. I dare you to find a more likeable comedian with a more unassuming, warmer personality, or more skill at turning personal anecdotes and observations into comedy gems.

Mae Martin: Dope played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.