Jo Caulfield’s book The Funny Thing About Death was released this week. You can probably get a signed copy if you go to Razor-Sharp, the comedian’s Edinburgh Fringe act.
I live in Edinburgh, in Leith (according to the council – in Granton, if you ask me), and so does Jo Caufield. Yet, to my error, I’ve never seen Jo perform live.
That’s no longer true. I saw Caulfield last night.
Jo Caulfield’s Razor-Sharp is in The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4, across the road and down nearly a whole block from the main The Stand.
It was a bit of a chilly bank holiday night as we queued up outside, but the buzz from the line was good. In front of us was a group of friends who had travelled up to Edinburgh just to see Jo. Behind us in the line, there was, I think, a father and daughter, and they had come down from Aberdeen to see Jo. They’d be going back after the gig.
I admit it. I was a bit apprehensive about the booking. When comedians and talents from around the world made their way to Edinburgh in a month, when it’s a logistics concern at Edinburgh Reviews and our sister sites, and when I’d never seen Jo perform before, was making time to see her worth it?
The friendly queue reassured me it was.
What to expect
Razor-Sharp is a show about the things that bother Jo. We’re told that there’s no narrative, no plot point, and just a bunch of things that bothered the Leither this year.
I think that’s largely true, but there are a lot of human truths and relationship insights in here. Men and women bond in very different ways; we communicate differently, too, by and large. I might wonder why that is the case, whether it needs to be, whether it should be the case – but Jo doesn’t go there. Jo just pokes fun at her husband and his friends.
There’s a little bit of audience interaction. Jo needs some couples to talk to as she searches for relationship advice for a friend and the occasional prop in a joke. It’s nothing terrible, though, not unless you’re timid (don’t sit at the front) or fragile (don’t go to a stand-up gig).
The person who takes the most flack, in some ways, is Jo herself. Razor-Sharp doesn’t just describe her tongue but her intelligence too. She’s grumpy, but the show is her hanging a lantern on that, perhaps for introspection but certainly for extrospection. By playing this role, or highlighting it so clearly, Jo lets the audience imagine how they’d react in a similar situation, whether as Jo or as the person dealing with Jo.
My extrospective takeaway is, as ever, to try and be more empathic. As it doesn’t come naturally to me, I should make an effort to step into the shoes of the person I’m talking with and imagine how the conversation might sound to them and what they might be thinking or feeling.
Vibe and performance
I’m pleased to say the good-natured vibe of the queue to Razor-Sharp continued inside. We had some big personalities in the audience, people happily slapping their thighs or standing up to take a wee bow when Jo called them out, and one gent in a bowler hat (yes, really), was happily taking wee nips from a flask.
Jo’s a practised, experienced and talented comedian and that carried the whole night. She was prepared, ready and embraced the crowd. Unsurprisingly, she’s won awards for this, and I’m sure she’ll win them again.
The Stand 3 & 4 isn’t a comedy venue throughout the year. I think it’s a hotel, or long-stay apartments, though, as there was an actual bar in the back corner of the room! That’s especially handy if you fancied a pint as you listened to Jo chat about Leith watering holes.
Thankfully, no one got up mid-performance for a beer and was too drunk for the show.
At the start of the review, I admitted that I wasn’t sure whether booking in to see Jo was the right idea.
I’m glad I went, Jo is funny and clever, and the ‘razor-sharp’ here is for her observations, not just her preferred communication method. Recommended. Grab The Funny Thing About Death while you’re there, too. It’s an unusually powerful keepsake.