Review: SNL Writer's London Debut Is Cool But Scattershot

Sam Jay, Soho Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Sam Russell Last edited 25 months ago

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Review: SNL Writer's London Debut Is Cool But Scattershot Sam Jay, Soho Theatre 3

There’s an effortless presence to US comic Sam Jay. Invite her round to your house and she’d immediately be more at home than you. Why? Because she's cool. Trust me, you’re over there, worrying about what you normally do with your arms when you sit down; meanwhile, Jay’s grabbing a beer from the fridge, kicking back and putting her feet up on the coffee table.

But is being cool enough to carry a stand-up show? Actually, for the most part, yes. Unfortunately, over the course of the evening, something just doesn’t fully click.

A Saturday Night Live writer, Jay’s brief run at Soho Theatre marks an eagerly anticipated UK debut and, despite her show comfortably coming in under an hour, there’s a lot touched on: sexuality, relationships, racial politics, toilets, Blackfish, alien abductions, Trump, strapping, American history. While there’s plenty of strong material, her approach is scattershot — completely at odds with the laid-back persona and mellifluous delivery that should be comfortably putting you at ease.

A variety of dick-jokes (sometimes crass, sometimes more clever) consistently generate big laughs, and as the comic bemoans the lack of space she enjoys in comparison to hetero-relationships it’s a genuine delight to watch her playing off her girlfriend’s audible off-stage cackling. Some topics are tellingly filler though, the show especially sagging under middle-of-the-road observational material like Android/iPhone debates or old folks’ Facebook habits.

I found myself craving more time with some of the sections that were met with the fewest laughs from the audience. Jay, as she points out, falls into three separate minority groups, and there are a lot of biting observations to be found when the show takes a socially conscious turn. A section about the white privilege enjoyed by serial killers builds nicely, but we’re shuffled on before it’s allowed to fulfil its potential.

Time spent with Jay is definitely enjoyable because of course it is. She’s cool. It’s just a shame she’s equally frustrating.

Sam Jay, Soho Theatre, until 22 June, tickets from £13

Last Updated 19 June 2019