Stand-up comedy review: Mae Martin: Us
Ivan Radford | On 16, Jun 2021
“Your hair lied to us.” That’s Mae Martin wittily, skilfully dissecting society’s expectations of gender and sexual norms – mostly through the medium of their hair. Describing the reaction of friends after they dated a guy, following years of being in a relationship with a woman, Martin precisely strikes at the heart of how appearances and preconceptions can feed into incorrect assumptions about who someone is. To do that in five words only reinforces just how talented a comedian Martin is.
If you’ve seen Feel Good on Netflix (read our five-star review here), you’ll be very familiar with Mae’s way with words – whether that’s carefully choosing a punchline for maximum impact or spewing out rambling paragraphs of thoughts in an endearing spurt of excitable honesty. Us, recorded in 2016, once again sees her mining her own experiences for humour and serious pontification – this time, her childhood.
Raised by her super-liberal parents, we hear of how her mother explained the facts of life – all of them – to her at a very young age. What ensues is a wonderful reflection on the way that her mother described the height of pleasure as an “explosion of rainbows”, only to set her up for disappointment for the rest of her adult life – and that ability to skew things that might be naughty in another comic’s routine into something that’s poignant as well as funny is what makes Martin’s meandering meditations so relatable.
It’s hard not to shake the feeling that things are just spilling out randomly on stage, but Martin’s in total control and a master storyteller, able to mix up the pace and tone at the drop of a hat. That fluidity feels apt given the way Martin dismantles the boundaries surrounding the labels society uses to pigeon-hole people, ultimately arguing that labels don’t help anyone express or appreciate the nuances there are to each of us.
The result is a hilarious, heartwarming hour of thoughts spanning life, prejudice, loneliness and love, all delivered with a candid charm, a winning smile and awesome hair. What’s clear at all times is that Mae Martin is nothing but honest – and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mae Martin: Us is available to rent on Soho Theatre On Demand