Review – Jenny Eclair, How to Be a Middle-Aged Woman (Without Going Insane)

‘Embrace the madness’, says Jenny Eclair. I couldn’t agree more

Jenny Eclair comedian how to be middle aged woman

There’s no way of saying this without sounding trite, but you really don’t have to be a middle-aged woman to love Jenny Eclair’s show about being a middle-aged woman. I am living, breathing proof of that fact. The show is so brilliantly written, packed with so many jokes and performed with such gusto, it makes for a genuinely refreshing 90 minutes.

Eclair is 55 now and cavorts about the stage brandishing a pointer and telling her stories with shameless glee. It occurred to me during the show that, because she was one of the only female stand-ups around 30 years ago, she is one of the only middle-aged female stand-ups around today. This partly explains the appeal of this show – it’s rare we get to hear routines about having an ageing parent, the physical and psychological changes that come with the peri-menopause, and a 50something’s take on the “thigh gap”.

But there’s so much more to the show than just that novelty factor. Eclair turns these subjects into comedy gold. The sheer volume of jokes in this show and the hit rate is something to behold. There are some beautiful lines in particular about the tattoo she would like to get, and how women should steam their £%#!&.

Nor does the show lapse into being generic – even though, as the title suggests, it’s aimed squarely at a particular demographic. She opens herself up a lot on private matters, such as losing her father, and the envy she feels towards a mother in her 30s. There are moments in the second half when it does slide into humdrum observations about getting old – precisely the comedy that this show is an antidote to – but they quickly pass.

There are some lovely visual touches too, like the map she shows us to depict the menopause, and her mood colour swatches. I also learned a whole new application for talcum powder. And it’s all backed up by bulletproof comic writing.

Clearly, Eclair revels in being inappropriate and outrageous, but the show doesn’t rely on shock tactics, and whenever she does go down that road it’s always with purpose. The tone is partly Absolutely Fabulous and partly Wear Purple. To me the show also marks Eclair out as something like a godmother of feminist comedy, adding a top layer to the shows we’ve seen from Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe, Sofie Hagen and so many others in recent years.

It’s a show with white wine breath and sweat patches, creaky knees and knitted pom-poms. I couldn’t relate to one word of it, but it was still glorious.

4.5 stars
Review by Paul Fleckney

Jenny Eclair – How to be a Middle-Aged Woman (Without Going Insane) is touring the UK and returns to London later in the year

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