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Fat Whore
Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012
4

4 stars

The Assembly Rooms (venue website)
Comedy
3-12, 14-26 Aug, 10:15pm-11:15pm
Reviewed by Martin Lennon

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Before the gig has started the scene has already been set. The stage assistant puts five different shot glasses filled with alcohol on the table, and immediately you get the feeling that this is going to be a classy evening. The truth is that you won't see anyone else at the festival who looks and talks like Kristine Levine; the context of the show is nowhere clearer than in its title, Fat Whore. However, not many people can carry it off like her, and she does so with real sincerity and vigour.

It is not just her controversial views on subjects like rape, abortion and paedophilia that shape the show, it's her genuine skills at humanising this often taboo aspect of comedy. What she talks about is often what she has lived through – and it's very much a case of what you see is what you get.

From the start it's clear that Levine is different, as she does the unheard-of courtesy of warning that this is going to be one of the dirtiest shows at the Fringe. She is quick to add how many dress sizes she has dropped because of the lack of good food in Scotland, and if this is to continue she will have to call the show just “Whore”. During the show she does go deeper into subjects that range from her time working in a porn store to more serious topics like abortion. In terms of content, some of the best moments of the show were when she was making fun of her large kids (Levine herself would call them ‘fat’), and when she is using eyebrowless crystal meth addicts as an advertisement of why not to take drugs. But her emotional depth sometimes takes you by surprise: when she speaks about her divorced husband, you get the unexpected feeling that this is a form of counselling for her.

Levine’s take on subjects like the rape laws in Scotland will divide any audience. It’s a shame that it may also be the only thing you remember the show for. I felt that what she is trying to do is to redefine the idea of comedy, and to a large extent push the boundaries of free speech; her brand of comedy is a form of social realism, and one that only a large working class woman with three kids can get away with. Unlike many (mostly male) comedians she isn't trying to make light of these subjects, but to come to realisations that bring her and the audience closer to understanding the complexities involved, and it was this no-nonsense bravado that made her a captivating comedian to listen to.

There were however, some weaker elements, and for me the last part of the show – where she talks about her job in a porn shop – was the weakest section. The jokes here were quite lazy, and lacked a certain punch. Also, at times she makes her fondness for the opposite sex clear, and her skills in that department can be a bit too personal. As mentioned, she may disgust many with some of the stories of her shenanigans, and this is something that the Fringe audience may not yet – even after sixty-plus years – be ready for.  Towards the end of the show she was also losing her way, and I wasn't sure if this was attributed to the five shots she had drunk. Whatever the reason, her storytelling did grow a bit more disjointed, and it definitely needs some polishing around the edges – the second half of the show does not quite seem to match the first.

Overall, some may say Levine is crossing the line with her views and jokes – but I would say she is reinventing the line. She has a certain likeability as an individual that just plays by her own rules, and that makes the show fun, rather than just smut. It may take a while for British audiences to warm to Levine. But once we realise we need more people like her in the comedy world, then it will be a better and more diverse place for it.

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