Everyone has a type of comedy that they love – sketch, end-of-pier, quickfire gag artists, surreal, musical etc etc. My personal favourite has always been the storyteller, the clown who can mix insightful truth and sadness into an hour where you still come out laughing… hard.
I think it’s the emotional extremes that do it for me and the speed with which we are transitioned between them. Because of her skill in this regard, I feel like Mae Martin has the potential to be our next great storytelling clown.
The subject matter of Dope is one that Mae has been touching on for years: she has danced around her drug-related past and her obsessive personality on many occasions without ever really revealing just how bad it got.
The show begins in typical Mae Martin fashion, she’s happy, awkward and thrilled to see an audience come to see her. She disarms us quickly with jovial anecdotes from her childhood – like the one about how she lost her virginity at the age of six to three witches from Salem… sort of.
By this point in the evening you could be forgiven for thinking that you were at a Bette Midler appreciation society meeting but stick with it. The show is based on the effects of dopamine and the things that trigger it. The science seems solid but I doubt that Mae’s ‘brain shrimp’ theory will make it in to any official school text books.
The story about her childhood addiction to stand-up comedy is worth the wait and it should come as no surprise to anyone that it was started by Mae discovering her parents’ Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks and Steve Martin albums – that really is some pure, class A product. And as self-depreciating as Mae is about her teenage self, it’s still impressive to imagine a 15-year-old holding down a full time spot at comedy club.
The descent in to drugs is hard to associate with the clown standing on the stage in 2017 but the stories are raw, real and delivered with aplomb. One of my favourite analogies was when she compared cocaine to an ex lover to give us some perspective on how it would feel if your friends said that they were bringing them to a party and were hoping you were cool with them all doing her on the table in front of you!
I am thrilled that Mae managed to beat her drug addiction but I am even more thrilled that she never beat her addiction to stand-up comedy. This show is touring the country and I heavily recommend buying a ticket to see this clown live.
Clown Stars: * * * * *
@Soho Theatre, London