No one has done as much to bring feminism to the forefront of comedy than Bridget Christie, so it’s no surprise that she’s not tinkering too much with the winning formula. She jokes about it being a savvy marketing decision, one that’s holding her back from her true desire to do an hour of camp Carry On-style innuendo, but there’s no doubting her passion.
But in fact women’s equality is only part of her agenda as she takes in wider political issues in A Book For Her, a stand-up show originally designed to help launch the book of the same name, but saddled with a semi-irrelevant title now it’s transferred to London’s Leicester Square Theatre.
Much of what inspires her is – like the Bic For Her pen that crystallised her ideas three years ago –apparently beyond parody: the fact that tampons are considered a ‘luxury item’ liable for VAT, unlike such ‘essentials’ as flapjacks; the idea that rape could be used as a tax loophole; or the story about Rachel Dolezal having to quit as president of America’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People after it was revealed she was only pretending to have black roots.
The follies at the heart of some of these stories, particularly the sanitary products campaign, might have been highlighted by other comedians, too, but Christie’s repetition ad absurdum drives the point home better than most. The relentlessly pursued suggestion of UKIP leader Nigel Farage being a character comedian is particularly driven into the ground, even if the preposterous man seems a lot let relevant now than just a few short months ago. On the forced repetition, she certainly shares a sense of humour with one Stewart Lee, who’s on in this very same venue just before her.
Christie mocks the media for obsessing about ‘left-wing comedians’ – a moan revived last week with a Daily Mail article alleging the ‘sneering hatred of today’s so-called comics for ordinary people’ – and the tired stereotype of a feminist being a man-hating lesbian with hairy armpits who thinks all men are rapists.
But what sets her apart from fellow polemists is her acute sense of her own absurdity; tempering her righteous anger with the knowledge that her response to it is inherently ridiculous. Traditionally political comics have been emboldened by a sense of knowing they are right – while Christie never loses sight of the knowledge she’s just a clown, without softening the blows.
A Book For Her is less universally coherent than its predecessors, a series of routines rather than a show with one overarching structure, and so is slightly less satisfying. But Christie’s zeal in attacking big, complicated issues with surrealism is laudable, and there are plenty of bizarrely funny moments.
She even ends on a tampon joke, of sorts – the supposed cliche that all female comics once got saddled with. But it’s appallingly funny, and with a strong message, which makes it a worthy closer for a typically provocative show.