Last year, Bridget Christie’s show A Bic For Her not only seemed like a watershed in her own career, but in comedy in general. For too many years, comedy on the Fringe had seemed over-saturated by young men in t-shirts, skinny jeans and hip haircuts, who dealt in either mundane observations or, rather more worryingly, dabbled in rape jokes.
Christie, a perennial favourite at the Fringe for her amusing if overtly quirky material, which saw her performing as an ant or as King Charles II, with a small but loyal fanbase, moved up a level with a show that wasn’t just unashamed to be described as feminist, but shifted the whole idea of what feminist comedy could be. The show was as thought-provoking as it was funny, and won her acclaim, a new and wider audience and the Edinburgh Comedy Award.
Christie’s success is perhaps not unconnected with the fact that a record number of women are helming comedy shows at this year’s Fringe – read our piece on feminism and the Fringe for more on this. She’s well aware of the pitfalls that can come when following up such a successful show and she plays with these gleefully at the start of An Ungrateful Woman (“I thought it would be a failure so I could just live off my husband’s earnings…feminism has ruined my life!”). It’s the jumping off point for an expertly delivered hour of comedy which, if Christie wasn’t already ineligible as a previous winner, would surely be a shoo-in for this year’s Comedy Award.
There are certain strands that tie this year’s show back to A Bic For Her – namely, Steve Davis’ comments about how women ‘lack the single-minded determination to play snooker’ can be compared to Christie ridiculing Stirling Moss last year – but An Ungrateful Woman is perhaps even more ambitious a show.
It’s beautifully structured for one thing: a long story about Christie auditioning for a particularly ridiculous commercial for yoghurt weaves its way through the show, and provides plenty of scope for her to detour in order to explore sexism in the advertising industry, the notion of ‘anti-rape pants’, the shameful level of attention paid to the kidnapping of 250 Nigerian schoolgirls and a quite brilliant section where she rails against a Daily Telegraph journalist for floating the idea that British sexism and misogyny is somehow better than that of Saudi Arabia.
The meat of An Ungrateful Woman though lies in the resolutely non-comedic topic of female genital mutilation. Christie has been one of the most public campaigners against FGM, and while it may not seem the most obvious subject for a comedy show, she strikes the perfect tone of revulsion, anger and ridicule of the attitudes surrounding it. She also manages to poke fun at herself, such as her confusion when discovering her long-term hate figure Michael Gove acknowledged her letter about it and promised to look into the matter.
Above all though, Christie remembers that this is a comedy show, not a polemic, and laces the show with a degree of self-deprecation, especially when she mentions her “racist, sexist pig of a fictional on-stage persona of a husband.” Just like Stewart Lee, she’s already becoming one of the must-see acts in Edinburgh. An Ungrateful Woman is a funny, inspiring and thoughtful show, which is well worth braving an 11.10am start for.