Hilary Wardle

Edinburgh Fringe review: Tiffany Stevenson, Optimist

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Tiffany Stevenson looks rather angelic with her blonde hair and shimmering blue-green dress, but the minute she opens her mouth you realise that she’s just the opposite. She’s a brash, complex, unhinged demon woman, and she knows it. 

Her bawdy, confessional jokes are a hit from the first few seconds on stage, and her quick fire delivery keeps us – and Stevenson – on our toes for the whole hour. Most of Stevenson’s deeply honest, and occasionally moving, set describes her battles with her own ‘inner critic’ – as well as depression, anxiety, a lump on her tongue  and the continuing, deeply disappointing existence of Kim Kardashian.

It’s not easy to remain optimistic about a world that allows the moronic Kardashian clan (and Kanye West) so much airtime, and Stevenson explores her own struggles in that context. What does it mean to be an optimist in a celebrity-obsessed, gun-toting world? Are self service checkouts sending her spiritual messages? Where would she be now if it wasn’t for Saddam Hussein?

And so on. Her material is varied, thought-provoking and often very political. If you’re left-leaning, you’ll certainly enjoy a great deal of her show. Her furious rant about the NHS felt refreshing at a Fringe that – yet again – seems starved of the sort of angry, political, anti-establishment comedy that typified the Thatcher era.

There’s a slightly uncomfortable feeling in the room during these (very funny) sections, as if her audience aren’t quite the right fit. Are they Daily Mail readers, or are they just jealous of her tales of youthful debauchery? There are a lot of these, most of which involve quaffing pints of Everyday Value vodka at an Tesco checkout at 3am while simultaneously trying to beep though a pregnancy test.

Stevenson might be political, but she’s also a chaotic, hilarious hot mess – and there’s nothing wrong with that…apart from the obvious health risks of drinking something that’s effectively drain cleaner.

This combination of sharp political insight, metaphysics and tales of being judged by a self service checkout machine is an interesting mix, but it works. She had a dreadful year in 2013 – hence the vodka – so ended up revisiting her teenage self and reflecting on how much of that optimistic, socialist, feminist 14-year-old was still inside her, and how much had been melted by £7 bottles of white spirit.

Wondering what happened to our idealistic youthful selves is something we can all relate to and Stevenson does it very well. Her explorations of morality and mortality take her from Tesco to the bottom scraping, right wing calls to action of the National Rifle Association website, via several diversions to discuss her TV appearances, Kanye West and her kick ass dancing skills.

Stevenson isn’t always pitch perfect; she stumbles a few times and on occasion seems to slightly lose her way, but she always brings it back and ends the show on a real high note.. If you like your comedy a) fairly political and b) slightly unhinged, you should definitely buy a ticket.


Date of live review: 7 August 2014 @ Gilded Balloon Turret

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