“It has been a long time since I experienced a set as effectively hilarious.”
The nicest thing about watching Kate Berlant’s Fringe debut CommuniKate is that you can rest assured you will find something to laugh about for just about every minute of the show. No disrespect to the more serious-minded comedy offerings that speckle a great deal of the Fringe’s stand-up lineups, but judging by pound-for-pound side-splitting material, it has been a long time since I experienced a set as effectively hilarious as Berlant’s.
The most difficult thing about the show is how remarkably hard it is to explain to the unconverted. Berlant’s entire persona — even onscreen, in brilliant comedies such as Search Party and Sorry To Bother You — is very, very specific, even verging on one-note. She is obnoxious, endlessly, obliviously egocentric, and a perfect manifestation of just about everything older generations seem to disrespect about “millenials,” whatever that means. She claims she is brilliant, gifted, destined for greatness, artistically burdened by her loving upbringing and uncomplicated life, and here to better us with her presence. But somehow, the overwhelming egocentrism is delivered with note-perfect confidence and consistency that it all results in deliriously fun.
The supposed ‘hook’ of the show, though only introduced halfway through the set, is that Berlant is psychic, and can effortlessly sense facts and details about the audience at will. This leads to some delightfully specific premonitions about the assembled crowd, which are sure to elicit reliably amusing results every night, making this approach a fruitful and clever Fringe offering.
Outside of the supernatural, Berlant mainly hopscotches around from topic to topic, delivering so many great punchlines and character ticks that it can be hard to keep up with this egomaniac’s self-obsession and sickening self-assuredness, but the whirlwind miscellanea is all part of the act. For those who prefer their comedians humble, perhaps look elsewhere, but for those who appreciate a vicious lambasting of the “I can do anything”-ness of certain members of society, perhaps you might appreciate Berlant’s thorough bollocking of the art of overconfidence. (At times, however, I must admit, as a deep fan of Search Party myself, Berlant’s schtick veers questionably close to comedian John Early’s general vibe, yet at the risk of comparing comedic methods unnecessarily, let’s leave that line of questioning there.)
Even the way Berlant says the word “bread” is funny. Odds are you will leave CommuniKate having laughed at quips, jabs, and ruminations you never thought could be remotely amusing, but as the Fringe is a hub and a home for comedy that finds hilarity in the strangest approaches, Berlant’s show fits right in and excels commendably. It might inflate the onstage ego more than ever, but bravo on this one, it’s a great show.
Reviewer: Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller (Seen 7 August)