Until yesterday the biggest mistake an audience member could make at a comedy show, as far as I was aware, was to sit in the front row. But oh no, no – the biggest mistake an audience member can make at a comedy show is sit on the front row, completely alone with not even a stranger for company. I learned that the hard way, literally, as Hefter’s set began with her thrusting and slapping a strap-on into my awkward face. It’s a move that pretty much set the tone for the piece: a massive burst of careless energy colliding with full-frontal honesty. It’s silly, you’d really have to hunt for any kind of structure whatsoever and it’s pretty damn cheap. It’s entertaining though, because Hefter’s chaos is relatable – sometimes even recognisable – and Hefter herself is infectious.
She manages to carry us from anecdote to anecdote, albeit with less-than-smooth transitions and less-than-okay life choices. Somehow we stick with her. The familiar chaos of single life and job hatred is enough for us to be on side when she describes more obscure instances like accidentally fingering a dog. She tells stories that you’d expect your most embarrassing gal pal to blurt out after one too many Porn Star Martinis. And Hefter tells them in the same incoherent, caution-to-the-wind style: punchlines disappear never to be found and callbacks lose any relevance. It’s entertaining, in the same way that that a drunken friend is entertaining, but it isn’t memorable and it isn’t enough.
Hefter’s 50 minutes are spiked with all the ingredients to make the show work. She has engaging audience participation, caricatured facial expressions, real bad poetry and a specific style of delivery that should work together to build a naturally polished show. But they don’t: each ingredient is sporadic and inconsistent. It occurred to me part way through that I’d heard most of her material before. I must have seen her play years ago, with no recollection of it. There’s nothing particularly contentious about a comedian using the same material for years on end – you’d struggle to find a comedian who isn’t guilty of it. The disappointing factor is that, in those years, she hasn’t honed her style; her delivery is far from on point and none of it works together. The narrative isn’t offensively jarring but it is lost.
Naomi Hefter is as likeable as she is marketable. She’s feisty and fierce and everything I’d want a female comic to be to make our point. That’s exactly why I’m more than a tad disappointed. That and the injustice of her having to eat a Big Mac every night for the good of the show, whilst parading a washboard stomach.
Naomi Hefter in CHAOS played at Etcetera Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe. She plays at a variety of venues across London: for more information and tickets, see the Naomi Hefter website.