Zoe Coombs Marr’s Trigger Warning takes character driven stand up to brave new heights, performing (almost) entirely in character as Dave. Dave is a shitty male comedian – he’s a blatant misogynist, his jokes are both stale and offensive, and he doesn’t understand why audiences have stopped responding to him.
While making him into a blatant caricature would be easy, Zoe’s careful character work toes the line of making him absurdly tone deaf and out of touch, but still entirely believable, and all too familiar to anyone who frequents open mics and amateur stand up shows.
It sounds like an impossible task to make a good stand up show starring such a bad stand up. Around the 10 minute mark, I started to wonder how much longer watching a hack fail to be a clown could stay funny, but just as the bit starts to lose its freshness, Zoe injects a new layer into the show, breathing life into it and keeping it engaging.
Every one of Dave’s fumbles, mistakes and desperate attempts to get the audience on side is really a carefully planned piece of a puzzle Zoe is building in the background. Despite some pacing issues towards the start, she manages to build a show that is everything Dave is not: original, timely, intelligent, and most of all, funny.
In the hands of a less competent performer, this show could have been a disaster. It relies heavily on self-aware parody and meta-humour which is so easy to get wrong, but Coombs Marr’s brilliant character work and show craft makes a show that succeeds not just as entertainment, but as art.