Catherine Cohen, Hackney Empire: arch self-absorption from the millennial Tim Minchin
Catherine Cohen is the voice of a, like, generation, which is so random. The young Texan doesn’t merely poke fun at the vocal tics of internet-addled millennials. She understands the contortions they go through in trying to seem #authentic, frantically pretending to be themselves online. “I’m so modern it’s exhausting,” she sighs.
After honing her act with weekly cabaret shows at Club Cumming, Alan Cumming’s New York nightclub, Cohen won the Edinburgh Fringe’s coveted Best Newcomer award in 2019, with a debut hour that blended stand-up, torch songs and comic poetry. Recorded as a 2022 Netflix special, that show felt like a definitive comic statement on being a twentysomething going into the twentysomething years of the 21st century.
So where does that leave Cohen now, embarking on her first UK tour at “31” – “which is,” she jokes, “one of the oldest ages you can legally be”? She’s arguably a victim of her success: her self-absorbed persona, which felt so fresh four years ago, has since inspired a host of comedians – notably Leo Reich – to plough the same furrow.
Come for Me takes a few small steps in sparkly boots away from that persona and towards maturity. Now “knee-deep in therapy”, this Cohen is a little less arch, more earnest. She’s still chronically oversharing (we hear about her sex-tapes, and having her eggs frozen) but shares the good as well as the bad.
With a pianist on baby grand, and Cohen on pink electric guitar, her new songs are plausible as pop, with catchy chorus-lines (from carpe diem cry “do it for the memoir!” to the astrology fan’s mantra “blame it on the moon!”). But as comedy routines, they’re only moderately amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny.
The same is often true of her fast-paced yet meandering stand-up. She’s good at free-associative riffs, throwing in observational one-liners as grace notes, but her attempts at longer anecdotes can fizzle without a climax. Good poetry has much in common with good comedy – both cut to the pith of an idea, with not a word wasted – and the couple of wickedly faux-vapid poems Cohen reads here are a highlight. (I’d have liked more.)
It may not match the thrill of her debut, but there’s a great deal to enjoy in Come for Me, right from her diva-ish entrance, complete with a costume-change. Like Tim Minchin, Cohen finds humour in the gap between her insecure, overthinking lyrics and their pop-star delivery; she sings about binge-eating “cheese-based products”, but carries herself like she’s Adele in Vegas. If she ends up with a residency there one day, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Touring until Feb 11: catherine-cohen.com