From groan-inducing puns to sharp-edged satire, the Pembroke Lady Smoker had it all. Hosted by Carine Valarche in the cosy Pembroke New Cellars, it was a wonderful evening that proved that women are not only funny, they are damn funny. Although turn out can be disappointing at Lady Smokers, which unfortunately don’t attract the same numbers as the Footlights Smokers despite providing, in my view, an equally good workout for your abs, this Smoker provided a welcome opportunity to laugh and relax at the end of a seemingly endless term.
It can’t be said, however, that the show went off without a hitch – the second performer, Jasmin Rees, had her stand-up interrupted by a Porter who marched straight up to her, mid-flow in a set about London and the North/South divide, to demand who had booked the room. Despite this unexpected intrusion, Jasmin managed to laugh off the awkward moment while the organisers convinced the Porter that we were, in fact, meant to be in there. The Porter was even invited to introduce the next act, which he did with what can only be described as a ‘dad joke’. After this intrusion, which Jasmin coped with admirably, the show was well underway.
There were varying degrees of polish to the performances, which can only be expected of amateur comedians, but each performer got at least a few giggles, if not a full belly-laugh from the audience. It is incredibly difficult to pull out highlights from a lot of consistently strong performances, but there are certainly a few which demand special recognition. Rhiannon Shaw’s Elsie McClutchey had yet another outing to a motorway services for a book reading, but it is clear that the sketch is an evolving organism, selecting the best parts and building on them each time she performs it anew. And it is funny every time – there is something about the combination of the impressive Scottish accent that she manages to maintain for the whole performance and the rib-achingly comic material about “vaginal dryness of the vagina” which could never fail to raise a laugh.
Louisa Keight’s New York husband-killer persona was clever and punny, playing on the meanings of words to create a sketch that alternately caused giggles and groans, while Ania Magliano-Wright’s true story about an awkward sexual encounter was both cathartic for her, and hilarious for the audience. Finally, further mention goes to Kate Collins, whose comic genius shone through once again in a well-written and well-rehearsed performance about trying to be more ‘hard’. However, perhaps she could find a better person to share a Venn diagram with than Mike Tyson, a sex offender – this revelation can go one of two ways, evoking either disgust or a sense of dark humour, and, fortunately, on this occasion, it got the laugh that Kate was looking for.
There is little else to say about this Smoker beyond the fact that it fulfilled its purpose in providing women with a space and an audience to be funny, and proving that they are clever, quick-witted, and devastatingly funny. Beg, borrow, or (don’t actually) steal a ticket to the next one – you won’t be disappointed.