FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see... Travis Jay
Who: Travis Jay
What: Funny, Petty, Cool
"What do they think? Black guys don't have emotions? That we're gangsta 24/7?"
Early on in his Edinburgh debut, Travis Jay has something to say about Love Island. He is an unashamed fan of the show, but takes exception to how one of the contestants has been portrayed in the media. Ovie Soko is a young black man whom many viewers have taken to their hearts, and Jay shares that affection. But he finds it mildly ridiculous that people are quite so blown away by the fact that Ovie is such a lovable, chilled, emotionally-mature man of colour.
It's a nuanced bit which leads into a far broader (and very funny) imagining of how people must think black men go about their every day business, eating cereal like a G for example. In many ways it encapsulates the main underlying theme of this incredibly accessible but cleverly layered hour. Through a series of personal anecdotes and wry observations, Jay examines how black masculinity is perceived in modern society - both positively, and less so.
This can very easily lead to the assumption that Funny, Petty, Cool is a heavily-messaged, angry tirade against blatantly racist tropes. In actual fact, it's anything but. As the title suggests, Jay stresses over the little things. He rails against stereotypes in a minor key, and in doing so, is massively effective in building an overall picture of misplaced assumptions of who he is and what he's expected to be. He's feeding you petty, but it adds up to something profound.
One of Jay's greatest attributes is a healthy disregard for his own ego. He'll readily admit to 'ugly-crying' - rather than the faux sexy tears you find in RnB ballads; he'll build up to an incident of road rage, only to culminate in a show of mild irritation; and his contemplation on the impending march of steal-your-girl sexbots of the future is both hilarious and refreshingly self-deprecating. Jay is cool precisely because he doesn't ever try to be.
More than anything Funny, Petty, Cool is a great advert for diversity in a Causasian heavy festival. It doesn't draw a line between performer and audience, or black and white, but rather welcomes you into a world and perspective you may not know - like why no black person has any intention of fucking about with time-travel. In this impressive debut, Travis Jay shows he is a polished performer with the wit and charm to say important things to the masses without them even noticing.
You can buy tickets for Funny, Petty, Cool here.