Review: Janeane Garofalo: Put A Pin In That at Gilded Balloon Teviot

“Not a strong joke writer since 1985.”

As intros go to a comedy show, it’s not the most promising of starts. But then Janeane Garofalo isn’t here to plead her case, cravenly convert anyone or suck up to audiences. For one thing, the American is no thrusting newcomer nor one-trick pony. As an actress, she appeared in umpteen Nineties/Gen X films, from Reality Bites to The Truth About Cats And Dogs.

For another, her stand-up career dates back almost three decades, to the Los Angeles alt.comedy scene of the early Nineties. Finally, she’s a writer, feminist and activist whose outrage has been weaponised by the reign of tweeted terror of He Who Must Not Be Named.

She’s also getting on a bit. As she repeatedly and chirpily notes, she’s 54 ­– no desperation of youth here. Instead there’s a ballsy, tattooed, middle-aged woman who comes over like a Sephora cosmetics-loving Iggy Pop, dressed to the shins in 14-hole Doc Martens boots and no-sleeves rock T-shirt, roaming comfortably through the crowd and gently ripping into the drunk, the sleeping and the texting members of her (relatively) late-night audience.

So, frankly, Garofalo doesn’t need need this gig. She’s just in Edinburgh for a laugh – and, it seems, for a chance to catch up on the vintage Brit crime drama for which she has to pay top dollar in the states (The Professionals! Taggart!), and to fall in love with daytime telly ledges like Nick Knowles of DIY SOS.

All of which perhaps explains why this show is so scattershot. The New Jersey native pinballs from Fringe observations (“I’m not a violent man, but that Silent Disco, they’re gonna get it”) to contemporary American cultural references, only some of which land (you’d have to know your country music onions to understand the scathing reference to Toby Keith); from withering self-deprecation (“I’m 54 – why am I dressed like this?”) to acute self-awareness (“There’s a number of people here going, ‘is there going to be jokes?’”).

However Garofalo manages to alchemise that randomness into show that ripples rather than rocks with laughter. An engaging, comfortably charismatic woman who draws you inexorably in, she’s an engaging wee-hours raconteur with whom you just know you’d have a brilliant drink or three. Kudos, too, for avoiding the easy-win of a Tr*mp dig until five-sixths of the way into the hour.

That said: if Janeane Garofalo applied her fierce intelligence, sharp opinions and rich life experiences to the Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief, even if only in the final lap, you sense that her show might really fly.

Janeane Garofalo: Put A Pin In That, Gilded Balloon Teviot, until 19 Aug (not 13), 9.15pm

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