Live Review: Olga Koch – If/Then

olga koch ifthen live
Centre17, Walthamstow, London, 14/06/2019.

With six weeks still to go to the Edinburgh Festival a lot of shows are still in a fairly shaky form, with many comedians relying on notes and commenting that certain parts will will change a fair deal before they make their annual pilgrimage to Scotland for the month. I really enjoy seeing the shows in their embryonic stage though as it’s a fascinating insight in to how comedy can develop over time, and their ramshackle nature has it’s own appeal too. But out of all of the previews I’ve seen so far this year Olga Koch’s is the one which feels almost complete as she rattled through an hour of material at an impressive rate.

It’s a bloody great show too, one of the best I’ve seen this year as Koch talks about a relationship that didn’t work out and her feelings towards this. The first ten minutes or so sees her discuss her Russian heritage and how she moved to America for University (which explains her very non-Russian accent) in the hope of becoming a coder, and she has some great material about what it’s like to be a woman doing a programming course along with a beautiful anecdote about how she interned for Warner Music while there and had the misfortune of being involved with Michael Buble’s Christmas album. Lesser comedians might have created a whole show on that as she has a fantastic story about him (if a possibly libellous one, as she admits herself) and some really strong material about how he changes the lyrics to Santa Baby to Santa Buddy so that no one would ever accuse him of wanting to have sex with Father Christmas, but after this it gets even better.

That’s because the real meat of the show is the relationship she had with a guy she met over there, who she refers to as Elon throughout the hour to protect his real name, but which also provides her with the excuse of doing some great jokes at the expense of Elon Musk as well. Elon initially seemed like a fantastic guy despite the red flags she initially picked up upon and there’s some very engaging commentary about the nature of first love which is not only thoughtful but also constantly funny, as she tells embarrassing stories about how she acted like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at the time, taking him to a cemetery and a strip club in the hope he’d fall madly in love with her, along with a great bit on faking orgasms which made me laugh hard throughout.

Unfortunately over time Elon turned out to be a twat, not only being jealous over her skiing skills but also the fact that she was stronger than him, and Koch slowly came to realise that he wasn’t the one for her. That didn’t stop her becoming slightly obsessed by the news that he was engaged to be married when she found out about it a couple of years later though, and wandering whether or not he treated his new beau in the same way that he did her. Wanting to get over him for good she decided that speaking to him wouldn’t do any good, but she did the next best thing, creating an AI based on all of their texts and emails so that she could kind of confront him about the way he treats women, for technical reasons we didn’t get the ending as it’ll be eventually performed but the version we did get was still extremely satisfying.

A show which explores relationships, internalised misogyny, and her past self and how she’s changed, Koch is an impressively confident comedian with a great command of the stage and the ability to generate laughs an all but amazing amount. Right now it’s an incredibly strong four star show but if Koch works on it any more over the next six weeks (which I imagine she will, that being the point of previews) then it could easily be a five star show and see Koch nominated for the main award, so if you’re going to the festival and have not bought tickets to see her yet you should do this very second.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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Related Links:
Olga’s Official Site.
Olga’s Edinburgh details.

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