Fern Brady was meant to perform at the Glee Club’s Studio on Friday night rather than today, a Monday, but a date mix up meant that she was in Sweden instead. A Friday night gig would have likely made for a larger audience, with the overspill of people too late to get into the main room plumping up the numbers. But, on the positive side, tonight’s good natured crowd is here specifically to see Brady. They are attentive and they get it.
Brady’s show is called Suffer, Fools! and it takes us through a number of dramatic episodes in her life, from experiences in dead end jobs (serving breakfast to paedophiles and murderers, working as a stripper) to an abusive relationship that culminated with an attempt on her life. Heavy topics for a comedy show perhaps, but Brady keeps things light and fast-moving, using these life events as a backbone to talk around a number of contemporary issues.
The lack of gay marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, for instance. In Brady’s eyes: “All homophobes are gay. It’s just a waiting game.” She suggests it’s not gay people ruining the definition of traditional marriage – straight people do it all the time. She backs this up with examples, like her father’s second marriage to “Julie from Milton Keynes” and tall women marrying short men (“I think it’s against nature”). Brady cleverly parrots the language around homophobia when defending her own relationship with an Irish guy who is shorter than herself: “We look stupid together… but love is love.”
Brady mentions having to amend some of her jokes before the BBC will broadcast them, in particular one about DUP leader Arlene Phillips. She can go a little close to the mark, but always with the aim of making an important point, as is the case with her material about sexual harassment. Brady claims to have been complaining about being sexually harassed on the street for the past five years, but was taken as seriously as, “ghosts or homeopathy”. How times have changed. She calls out celebrities such as Joanna Lumley, Angela Lansbury and Liam Neeson for undermining the seriousness of the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK. Brady’s understated delivery is largely quiet and deliberate, so when she does raise her voice to make an indignant point it has plenty of impact.
The final section of Suffer, Fools! looks at two of Brady’s dysfunctional past relationships. A story about a bad break-up with a posh boy at university explores issues of class (“I don’t fuck outside my class”) and eating disorders. It ends violently, but not as violently as an abusive relationship in her twenties where her boyfriend attempts to smother her with a pillow. It was all a long time ago and Brady refrains from making any profound points about what happened, even if she jokes that this would get her an extra star in a Guardian review.
It all leads up to a very silly, but funny final scene that pulls together a number of jokes from the show. It’s a fitting climax to a very well thought-out hour of comedy in which Brady doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life and is brutal in her pursuit of a zippy punchline. This, along with her low-key delivery, sets her apart from other new comics on the block. I hope that the BBC doesn’t polish too much of the weirdness out of her.
Fern Brady is quickly building momentum as one of the UK’s most promising up-and-coming comedians.
If an appearance on Stewart Lee’s Comedy Central show TheAlternative Comedy Experience was an early badge of quality, this has been backed up with approving reviews and high profile appearances on Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central and Channel Four’s 8 Out of 10 Cats. Brady starts 2018 embarking on a long UK tour, followed by a string of dates at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, before another series of dates back in the UK.
Brady reportedly first tried stand-up comedy after the magazine she wrote for during the Edinburgh Fringe suggested she write an article where she faked it as a comedian. What the magazine didn’t know was that Brady secretly wanted to try stand-up comedy anyway, so took the gig much more seriously than was strictly needed. She hasn’t looked back, eventually making the final of the Fringe’s prestigious award for stand-up newcomers, So You Think You’re Funny, in 2011.
Just don’t label her a ‘Scottish’ comedian. Brady is uncomfortable being a talking head on issues of Scottish independence and is reportedly unimpressed with the English’s preoccupation with her nationality. But perhaps (after watching several YouTube snippets) some of the problem with the later lies in the fact that Brady‘s fairly broad accent (to my English ears, anyway) bolsters her no-nonsense delivery. And God bless this green and pleasant land, but an English accent just doesn’t have the same clout.
But of course, there’s much more to Fern Bady than being Scottish. Her autobiographical material (she claims to be terrible at making things up, so everything she talks about on stage is true) is self-assured, knowing and easy to relate to. This is a great chance to see a comedian on the up, in a relatively intimate venue. I’d get in quick, before she’s packing out arenas.
Fern Brady on Seann Walsh’s Late Night Comedy Spectacular
Fern Brady brings her Suffer, Fools! tour to The Glee Club (B’ham) on Monday 29th January – rescheduled from 26th January. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.glee.co.uk/performer/fern-brady-tour
January 1st… no finer day to cross off the calendar. But as the world crawls out of bed with hangovers and resolutions, Birmingham’s events diary looks forward to a pretty vibrant January. It seems the ‘quiet month’ is not so dormant this year. Which is a good thing, right? I mean, who needs to stay in and save money? Food and heating are for quitters.
For more film, mac hosts Playback from 7th to 24th Jan – a touring and ‘interactive exhibition’ of over 200 short films from ‘krumping and parkour dance shorts, to an animated tale of teenage love that unearths our desire to be as cool as the zines we read’. Held in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery, with free admission, Playback carries a Tubbs and Edward local angle too, as ‘some of the films were originally made in and around Birmingham, where young people based in the Midlands were given the support and funding to create a short film.’
And with Louisa Ellis (The Wilderness), Mark Walsh (Opus Restaurant), Luke Tipping and Leo Kattou (Simpsons) and Olivier Briault (The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel) all chipping in a course, it should do just that. Although, the non-fixed donation approach is gratefully received in mid January.
Now if I can just find an energy provider with the same approach…
In memoriam of her paternal auntie and namesake, Lady Gaga’s latest song, album and tour appear as personal an affair as you can offer when delivering it to millions of strangers. A curious dichotomy, but one Birmingham will get to see on stage first as the Live Nation machine sets down in our city before anywhere else in the UK. Kudos.
And with tickets being transferred from the previous dates in October 2017, it’s fair to say there may be a bit of a bun fight to get in to these gigs. No doubt it’ll be worth a few scuffed elbows though, but even if ‘I’m never going to know you now, I’m gonna love you any how’. OX Joanne.
Tickets for the originally scheduled Lada Gaga shows at the Genting Arena (12th Oct ’17) at Arena Birmingham (15th Oct ’17) can be transferred to the new dates. According to the venues’ websites, ‘if you cannot make the new date, refunds can be obtained at your point of purchase for a limited period’.**
Playback @ mac 7th to 24th Jan
For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlink.
Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview titles.