Olga Koch review – uproarious, gleefully obscene comedy

By Brian Logan
Olga Koch.
On the front foot … Olga Koch. Photograph: Rachel Sherlock

The comedian from far afield, observing British idiosyncrasies for the delight of British audiences: it’s a brand of comedy that will always tickle a crowd. It’s mainlined by Olga Koch – Russian born, American educated (sort of) – in the first portion of this new show. Boots Advantage points, our obsession with the pub, the cult of Captain Tom – this is the stuff, not wholly free of cliche, that comprises her Homecoming set, which recounts how Koch recently became a British citizen. It’s a good-time show and – even if its several parts don’t hang together particularly well – in Koch’s swaggering performance, it packs a considerable punch.

The show is delivered firmly on the front foot, as Koch segues from Britishness, via her teenage years at an American school in outer London, to some climactic sex comedy. There’s a tenuous effort to yoke these subjects together, as she theorises that nationality and casual sex are both performative. But the idea isn’t developed, nor really embedded in the jokes. The adolescence section in particular needs better framing, as it meanders off the topic of nationality and Koch reminisces, apropos of not very much, about the motivational speakers who used to visit her school.

But the gags are good (I liked the one about her school, US teen movies and Back to the Future) and frequently uproarious: Koch mimes pulling a condom over her head, auditions to be a Bond girl and recreates an improbable act of sexual contortion. Occasionally, the assertive sass and sex-positivity can lead to glibness: on the first world war poets, “they weren’t dying for their country, they were dying for dick. And that I can respect.” Ho hum.

But more often, the high joke count and emphatic delivery steamroll us into willing submission. Like her opening section, Koch’s blue-humour finale – addressing “Lily Allen’s clit hoovers” and the legality of sex with cousins (replete with a lovely callback) – can hardly fail to get a room laughing. As a fresh-minted citizen, her sense of belonging in Britain may feel provisional – as she says – but on the standup stage, she couldn’t look more at home.


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