Because You Demanded It
Bridget Christie ★★★★★ – an electrifying Brexit tirade
The comedian ditched her planned show when the EU referendum shock gave her something better to dig into. The result is splenetic, alarming – and hilarious
Written by Brian Logan in The Guardian on August 11th, 2016
Death and mortality were the intended subjects of Bridget Christie’s new set: a swerve away from the overtly political material that’s made her a must-see in recent years on the fringe. But then the EU referendum happened and her show, she told interviewers, “just didn’t seem that interesting to me any more”. The hastily put-together hour that’s replaced it, which takes Brexit as its subject, is far more than an adequate substitute: it’s a hilarious, bumbling, impotent, furious tirade against what Britain is becoming, and by some distance the most electrifying comedy I’ve yet seen on the fringe.
The conceit is that Christie is so distressed about Brexit she can’t bear to talk about it, so will be discussing horticulture instead. But her anxiety won’t be so easily becalmed, and soon her material on potted fuchsias – they’re immigrants from South America, don’t you know, that share soil quite happily with indigenous flowers – is feeling decidedly Brexity.
The commonly used put-down of work like Christie’s is that it preaches to the converted. Even were that so, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But there’s no grounds to assume that an Edinburgh fringe audience wouldn’t divide down leave/remain lines – a possibility Christie exploits to terrific effect with a routine allowing leave voters to opt out of her audience. Of course, there are no guarantees what other shows might be available, or that they’ll ever be allowed back in…
That’s just one of several wonderful riffs here – all the more remarkable given the show’s short gestation. There’s an extended flight of sarcasm about the country’s supposed impatience with experts, as Christie feigns exasperation with numbers, words and all manner of specialists. (“Fucking dentist! Lording it over me with his tooth knowledge!”) The BBC gets it in the neck for interviewing a leave voter without addressing his swastika tattoos, and there’s a silly, splenetic takedown of the “not human” Michael Gove.
Now and then, her line of thinking detours via less political topics: how she’s preparing her kids for her own death (a relic from the show she shelved, presumably); her husband’s unwelcome thoughts on labiaplasty. But all roads lead back to Brexit, and Christie throws herself at that material even more vigorously than usual. Occasionally I wondered if we were laughing at the pop-eyed, loose-limbed faux-faux-apoplexy over and above the actual material. If so, no matter: it’s still deliriously funny, and highly expressive of half the country’s disbelief at the road down which we’ve turned.
You realise, watching the show, that in just the six weeks since the vote, Brexit has stopped feeling extraordinary. Christie restores the sense of alarm, in particular at the rise of racism and nativism it’s helped legitimise. Whether or not you agree that “we risk the total collapse of social cohesion in this country”, her rallying call for a fightback, a defence of the Britain that 48% of us hold dear – which she makes with fond reference to her own Irish-immigrant parents – is invigorating. And either way, you’ll be laughing. There’s nothing to touch Christie’s combination of tub-thumping and glorious clown-comedy, and here – in a matter of weeks – she’s fashioned a show as entertaining as anything we’ve yet seen from her.