PC snowflake liberals, with their safe spaces and 58 gender options have ruined comedy, apparently. You just can’t say anything anymore! Except you can, as proven by any comedian who spends the bulk of their show crusading against the permanently offended by being offensive.
Lady Bunny’s Trans-Jester is one of these self-styled crusades on political correctness, which masquerades as a noble defence of free speech, but comes off more like your nan complaining that she can’t call Ainsley Harriot “that dark chap” when Ready Steady Cook repeats come on the telly. It’s a pity – her high-camp glamour, razor wit and legendary pop-culture repertoire cuts in all the right places when she takes aim at the likes of Donald Trump, or even fellow drag icon Bianca Del Rio.
Her crass reworking of Doves Cry into a disco-funk ode to rimming earns belly-laughs for its imagination as much as its potty-mouth. But when Bunny veers into clumsy conversations about cultural appropriation, or jokes about the length of Asian men’s penises, it doesn’t feel as if she’s giving you anything new. It all comes off a little Jim Davidson in a wig.
Bunny is able to command the stage and audience, bringing decades of experience to the table. Her aesthetic alone – sky-high wig, 70s mini dress complete with wizards’ sleeves and impossibly great legs which are out on display from ankle to asshole – is hilarious. You don’t survive on the New York drag scene all these years without being an incredible entertainer, and her madcap dance moves, hilarious anecdotes and of course infamous ability to rework a song into shameless bawdiness and filth are as strong as ever. Oscar Pistorious, Caitlyn Jenner and Bill Cosby are all targets in her non-stop onslaught on celebrity, queer culture and pop history. But watching an audience full of cis gay men laugh at Caitlyn Jenner when “tr*nny” is being thrown around, overshadows what Bunny’s saying about how Jenner has sold out the community.
It was disappointing to see a performer who clearly has the intelligence to say really funny shit about the queer community turn a Bruno Mars song into number about getting fucked by black dick, particularly as one of just three or four black faces in the audience.
Bunny is problematic as hell, and I expected to hear close-to-the-bone material in Trans-Jester. But there’s something really lazy about incorporating such overused patter and stereotypes in her crusade against political correctness.
Throughout Trans-Jester, Bunny makes the point that we have bigger fish to fry than whether or not it’s okay to say certain words to one another; it would have been more impressive to watch her fry those bigger fish through her comedy. Instead, the show is dragged down by complaints about student safe spaces (complaints that are made completely unironically from within a queer safe space) and trigger words.
Trans-Jester has moments of hilarity that were overshadowed by excessive ranting about PC culture and offending for the sake of offending. And once you realise that every joke is going to lead back to the same point, no matter how out there your material is, it all gets a bit predictable.
Trans-Jester is at The Soho Theatre until Saturday 1st July. Full listings and tickets available at sohotheatre.com