FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see… Jena Friedman
Who: Jena Friedman
What: Miscarriage of Justice
“Republicans believe that life begins at conception and then ends in an immigration detention centre...”
The phrase 'brave comic' is often banded about in the same nonsensical way you'll hear 'witty main course' or 'compassionate Tory'. But in the case of Jena Friedman, it pretty much sums her up. The American stand-up is brave enough and compelled enough to go after the some of the most dangerous people (men) in the world - Russian agents, anti-abortion fanatics, the NRA, unhinged incels and Trump supporters - and do so with some of the most pitch-black and uncompromising humour you'll find anywhere.
Still, it seems the bravest thing Friedman is doing right now is owning a vagina in America. It is with a disturbingly measured tone she explains that 4.5 women are murdered every single day in her home country, and that their femicide epidemic is so widespread that the US is now listed as the tenth most dangerous country in the world for woman. She pleads for men to please engage with their feelings in a language they'll understand: "Rub one out...of your face. Jizz out some tears! Ejaculate your emotions! Because you're killing us! And we need you to take it down a notch!"
Friedman is able to switch from devastating fact to wince-inducing wisecrack in a single beat, and it makes for a heightened comedy experience. If the punchline of any joke is essentially a release in tension, the sheer magnitude of Friedman's subject matter allied with her brutal pay-offs only amplify that sense. And some of her lines are very close to the bone. The sentence, "A lot of my friends are miscarrying...because they're cool! Girls have kids - women miscarry!" may seem beyond the pale, but it's only because Friedman is determined to normalise the conversation around pregnancy loss.
Whether it's modern society's pornographic addition to true crime, the murderous nature of toxic masculinity, the rapid rise of global fascism, the ingrained neuroses of Jewish people, or the frightening abortion debate in the US, Friedman is unflinching, through-provoking and fearless. There is one joke involving the word 'elbow' which causes the whole room to audibly gasp, before breaking into nervous laughter. It is searingly effective stuff, and of course followed up with an equally acerbic addendum.
Friedman isn't remotely incredulous in her delivery, in spite of her often shocking material. She isn't even irate - it's way beyond that. There's an inescapable sense that her gallows humour is fuelled by a panicked desperation and urgency desire to wake people up. This is an exceptionally funny and vital show about devastating truths that are no laughing matter. All Friedman can hope to do is try and alert people to the dire straits we find ourselves in using the one tool at her disposal - her wit.
You can buy tickets for Miscarriage of Justice here.