“I Laughed, I Cried”
Viv Groskop Cowgatehead 21.45 until Tuesday 14th Reviewed Friday 8th Free 2 stars
First thing I should say – I enjoyed this gig. The star rating is not reflective of the degree to which Viv Groskop is able to hold and entertain an audience. She’s a deeply capable storyteller, able to take her (fascinating) material and charge it with the bravura and emotion of a master narrator.
But she’s not very funny.
Groskop’s a freelance journalist, and a well-regarded one. Researching her, I realised that I’ve actually read and enjoyed a few of her stories in the past. Her show I Laughed, I Cried is based on her eponymous book which chronicles her decision to follow her childhood dream of being a standup comedian; and an exhausting quest to undertake her first hundred gigs in as many days.
The atmosphere is warm and friendly, despite the challenging venue at Cowgatehead (the Tattoo frequently interrupts with its fireworks, and other rooms are audible throughout). Viv chats with the audience and we chat back. She relates entertaining anecdotes and we quietly marvel at her chutzpah and tenacity.
There are biscuits.
One gets the overall sensation of attending a book signing, reinforced by the lack of laughing matter. Of course I’m aware of standups who live in the space between narrator and comedian – David Sedaris and Tig Notaro spring to mind – but Viv leans much more towards the narration side. It’s not necessarily a bad trait, except in a show billed as a comedic act.
Viv has some great recommendations from other comedians, and I understand why – she discusses the industry and processes of comedy in an accessible and (perhaps overly) sincere manner. She also doesn’t rely on punchlines and catchphrases; cheap character work or mannerisms; or easy observational humour. No hackwork here, and I appreciate that.
On the other hand, she mentions that she has been damned by faint praise like ‘brave’ and ‘funny – but doesn’t really have any material’. I suspect that the opposite might be true. Her material is fine. But perhaps she needs to finetune a stage persona (she says she doesn’t have one). Or something, anything – I’m really not sure what’s missing here but she needs to try something different.
Groskop’s definitely in the journeywoman stages of her comedy career, and I’m confident she has something better yet to come. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this show, but I look forward to seeing her next one.