Words by Helen Knott
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.
For more on Fern Brady, visit www.fernbrady.co.uk
For more from the Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.glee.co.uk