Vanessa Steinberg appears on stage wearing a cross between a hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women to cover their hair, and a sheitel wig, which is worn by some orthodox Jewish women to cover their hair.
This is rather clever, both as a commentary on the strong links between the two Semitic races, and as a reflection of her own background, which she explains is half Polish and half Palestinian.
It’s also the last family-friendly remark she makes before launching into a long, graphic diatribe about dating as a 53-year-old serial divorcee with a history of drug use and adversity to working for a living.
Unfortunately a man in the audience had taken the MICF advice that the show is “Suitable for All Ages” at face value and brought his young son along. The boy laughed nervously as Steinberg discussed fucking to fund her dermal fillers and the difference between a cocaine high and sugar.
Eventually she moved on to culture clashes between Australia and Israel, living with teenage daughters and – blessed relief – hummous.
Steinberg openly describes herself as “a middle-aged Jewish succubus (sexual demon) who is firmly on some currently undiscovered psychiatric spectrum” and she’s not shy in sharing intimate details for laughs, but somehow it feels less like revealing a vulnerability to explore the human condition and more an in-your-face challenge, an assault.
Inspired to follow a strong tradition of strong female comics – Joan Rivers, Amy Schumer and others – Steinberg declares that stand-up comedy is her ticket to big money, and she certainly shares their brutal honesty.
Her delivery is slick and fluent, she has a great on-stage presence, and when her subject matter is broad enough for others to relate, Steinberg shows moments of brilliance, but her own lifestyle experiences may still be a little extreme for mainstream viewing.
I’m older than Steinberg and still feel a tad traumatised; I hope that young boy I holding up OK.
2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Not Quite White
by Vanessa Steinberg
Venue: Loop Project Space & Bar | 19-23 Meyers Place, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 4 – 17 April 2019