Character actress Jennifer Coolidge is a gay icon already, only 6 months or so into her stand up comedy career. She filled Athenaeum filled on Thursday night and had her gay boys hooting and yelping. Me, not so much. From her deliberately delayed entrance after being announced, the sign round her neck saying ‘motherf*****r (referring, we suppose, to her being a mother and a ? in the film American Pie) the stripteasish removal of her coat to reveal a tight satin LBD, the tottering on sky-high heels, the impression was of a glamourpuss trying very hard and not being herself, whereas being herself would have worked infinitely better.
Coolidge is brash in that ‘Californication’ kind of way but jokes about how she sold her virginity for $12 fall flat because she is gorgeous, a blonde bombshell; we just can’t buy that lack of self-esteem shtick from someone who’s been so successful and is presenting herself as a pin-up. Her delivery is punctuated with many ‘ahs and ums’ and she often takes so long to make her point that she comes across as nervous, although generally she has a loud showy stage presence. Her timing is too obvious and she misses her mark with jokes about how she’d shag a fourteen year old and having a photo of a dead child in a coffin lying around the house. (Jennifer, if you’re reading this, you have to really deliver to keep your audience onside if you’re going to make these sorts of gags.) The punch line of the dead child in the coffin photo is fine; making its actual point about Bostonian bluntness beautifully, it’s the build up where she talks about how she’d present the picture at parties which is distasteful. Same with shagging fourteen year olds. Her problem, like with so many comics who have interesting lives and great tales to tell, is that her stories lose their impact when they strive for laughs and she doesn’t trust in the details.
Coolidge’s show revolves about how awful life and everyone in LA is, which is fascinating, exactly what we want to hear more about; it's, much, much more interesting than her perceived personal insecurities, unless they’re a result of trying to fit in. An insider/outsider in LA is such a good starting point – I want to hear more about her sense of separateness from that culture, that premise informing her show, not about her buying into its ludicrousness and talking about how she thinks she looked her best when her head appeared too big for her body. That can’t be true. Although, it has to be said, her stories about the mad diet she went on 20 years ago that really worked (it’s called cocaine) and the new one where you take two mouthfuls and spit it out, work a treat. She is at her funniest when she’s being truthful and not contriving to make jokes up.
Coolidge refers often to the dreadfulness of the culture in LaLa Land but we need more actual stories and anecdotes; this would lift her show to the heavens. It’s great when she names names (I understand there’s only so far she can go here without being slapped around the head and shoulders with libel suits) but there must be rafts of bizarre stories up her sleeve and weird things she and other’s have done, the details of which will scintillate and horrify even if she can’t tell us who the actual protagonists are. In brief, what she has to offer is a whole pile of really good gossip, about herself and all the players, operators and shmoozers from this weird dysfunctional world that we simply adore, darling, to hate.
Yours For The Night
Venue: The Athenaeum Theatre
Date: Friday June 10, 2011
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au | 136 100