The first time I saw Lou Sanders it was on a bill with Brett Gelman, Tim Key, Harriet Kemsley, Brian Gittens, Kerry Godliman, and Jamie Demetriou (and yes, you should be jealous, it was an amazing night) and she impressed me enormously, I was aware that some of her performances could be a little haphazard but she made the whole crowd laugh hard throughout. Her appearance on Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast was also a delight, and so I had high expectations from this set.
Entitled “What’s That Lady Doing?”, this is her Edinburgh show from 2016, and as much as I enjoyed it, it can’t be denied that it’s a slightly frustrating effort. When it’s good there’s nothing quite like it, but when it misfires it’s just plain odd, with most comedians you can see what they were trying to get at even if it’s not successful but with Sanders it’s hard to understand why she thought such a thing would be funny. This mostly applies to when she performs various characters, with Gender-less Michael and Sexy Deborah being flat affairs where I couldn’t see where the humour was supposed to come from. Thankfully such moments are fleeting and the majority of the set works well, it’s just a shame there are such elements.
Sanders begins the hour with a bit of crowd work which is something I’m not always fond of, some are masters of it (Paul Foot, Ed Aczel, Steen Raskopoulos) and others, well, I once saw a guy take the piss out of a man with learning disabilities at a gig I imagine many have sought therapy for to help recover from. Fortunately Sanders is a delight here, she goes in to the audience to brush a guy’s hair and sing to him, cleanses the stage with sage to get rid of racists, and explains why she’s no longer allowed on Absolute Radio, getting a big laugh out of mentioning how a listener didn’t have to explain what “Suck me off” meant to an eight year old.
Many comedians are unpredictable, it’s part of their trade, but Sanders takes the biscuit and turns it in to a whale, or maybe a sentient planet, you never know what you’re going to get from one moment to the next which is mostly a fantastic thing. A segment on tights sees her burst in to song, tips for life contain many a mirthful moments with gags about dairy industry nightmares and the subtext behind her feelings about mooncup being superbly funny stuff. She’s got a great selection of one liners, from why she was the prettiest and cleverest girl in school to a great joke about why she has a dragon outfit, and some of her routines about various subjects, including attending parties while sober, where she puts her hands when she’s self-conscious, and the stories she makes up for her niece all generate a lot of laughter.
Physically she’s also an impressive act, with an impersonation of a dog falling over especially making me laugh, while her final moments on stage are quite beautiful stuff and fall in to the nearly always joyous “I never thought I’d see that” category. If there’s an overall theme to the show it’s how people call her, and women in general, mad, and how derogatory this is, along with the perceptions we have of each other. Sanders mines this topic efficiently and proves the former concept to be completely false too with the line “All the jealousy killings? It’s them cheeky boys”, and there’s some very funny commentary on social media and the nature of insanity too.
So it’s frustrating that it’s a slightly disjointed affair as at her best Sanders is a blindingly good comic, but this particular show is just a little too uneven to give a wholly positive review, which is something I wanted to do as I’m incredibly fond of her performances. At her best she’s got a truly unique way with words, and an unique style in general, and an outlook on life that I can’t imagine witnessing anywhere else, and so despite my minor complaints I hope no one’s put off seeing her live. And this was a show from three years ago so hopefully she’s more consistent now, but either way I still plan to see her as much as I can.