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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Brian Logan

Robby Hoffman review – New Yorker unleashes her nerd-jock shtick

Robby Hoffman at Soho theatre, London.
Hard-to-love material … Robby Hoffman at Soho theatre, London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Robby Hoffman recently raised hackles, she tells us, by using the word “faggot” on Netflix. She uses it again here. A lesbian comic, the New Yorker acts like a jock – boastful, dogmatic, aggressive. But there’s a strain of nerd in there too, as she trains her certitude on this or that question of vanishing real-world import: bathroom bins; the origin of dominoes. It’s an intriguing mix that has gained Hoffman traction in the US and comparisons to Larry David. I found her compelling to a certain point: there are some choice routines, but the persona starts to feel forced.

After an opening 10 minutes from her downbeat podcast sidekick Rachel Kaly, Hoffman opens by addressing her identity, and her imperviousness to offensive name-calling. This is not a performer whose sense of her own superiority will be easily undermined. There’s a nice section here subverting the cliche of “emotional” women, and another marvelling at the domestic inadequacies of men. One dismayed gag deplores her mother’s toilet habits. But the standout riff trains its fire on arriviste queer people, whose tenuous claim on the term Hoffman ruthlessly mocks by contrast to her own lifelong, hard-knocks toil at lesbianism’s coalface.

Her attitude to the audience (“you make me sick!”) is similarly dismissive. Which could be fine in small doses – and the irony is apparent in Hoffman’s martinet posturing. But the problem with her shtick – delivered in a chewy Brooklyn accent – is that the gig devolves into hard-to-love material about how “gay” most men are (“dudes like some girly-ass shit!”) and cynical jokes reducing us all to the carnal circumstances of our own conception.

Whether or not you find the idea funny that a thirtysomething queer New Yorker should be peddling this faux-boorish material, in practice it starts to feel two-dimensional and false. But if the closing stages seem like a misstep, there is fun to be had earlier on with a comic who certainly isn’t afraid to make a strong impression.

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