Liz Miele: Mind Over Melee

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Caragh Aylett

at 09:27 on 8th Aug 2016

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Liz Miele is a stand up comedian in her early 30s in her debut performance at the Edinburgh Fringe. Embarking on her fourth European tour, she is well practiced and it shows. Her stand up performance draws on many different areas of her life. She explores physical and mental illness, suicide and racism- amongst other things. While these are certainly not the most obvious choices for comedy, Miele's style makes you forget this and the ease with which she moves between these difficult is astounding.

The material that focuses on her experiences of illness is of particular note. Throughout the performance she mentions aspects of her physical illnesses but it is her references to mental illness that really drew me in. Her openness on the topic is never uncomfortable and is certainly well received. Equally, she is never mocking mental illness. Her amusing anecdotes about her experiences with her therapist are witty and comical but they have a slightly more serious undertone highlighting the difficulties faced by those with anxiety. Miele's decision to collect for and promote a mental health charity at the end of her performance is profound and admirable.

Another memorable section of her piece draws on racism. When Miel states "I've charmed you enough now to let you know that I'm racist", I feared that the show would go quickly in a downwards spiral. However, somehow she even manages to make this work. I did not find her 'racism' to come across as offensive and I am almost entirely sure that those of the nationalities that were mentioned would not either. She has chosen risky subject matter but she handles it incredibly well.

Throughout the piece Miele makes reference to her audience's silence. While it was certainly true that jokes regarding her dating experiences were not as well received as other sections of script, it is a mistake to say that they fell flat. Even in her weakest sections, Miele engages the audience and still gains many laughs. With her lack of audience interaction and her decision to stay stationary throughout the performance, many would struggle to command the room in the way that Miele does. Her style and her stage presence is natural and comfortable and holds the room's attention.

Her piece is fresh, new and original. As I was leaving I overheard a man saying 'it was consistently funny' and that is an accurate reflection on her performance - I laughed from beginning to end.

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Jessica Baxter

at 10:27 on 8th Aug 2016

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The archetypally American Liz Miele’s stand-up act is nothing more than a good laugh to start your evening before you hopefully go on to something more exciting. The only jokes that were particularly memorable were ones about mental illness and suicide, and that was because they filled the Underbelly basement with an uncomfortable and sorrowful air. The comic delivery of the charismatic Miele herself was the saving grace – she is as loudly confident as only American comedians can be.

Miele cheerfully moves through her experiences as a travelling comedian battling with physical and mental illness. She explores dating, race, Judaism, Finnish airports and cats. She seems boldly confident and organised, though self-doubts and insecurities intermittently slip through. These are perhaps the funniest moments, relatable to every woman in an awkward generation gap, especially when Miele talks about her awkward dating experiences. However, when she relates how she swaps between Jewish and black boyfriends, this is where things take a prickly turn.

‘I’m racist,’ she announces, as a way to somehow incite giggles. ‘I feel like you guys have spent enough time with me to know I’m racist.’ Now, I’m all for bold jokes bordering on the edge of offensive, but it’s been a highly tense 2016 for North American minorities, and jokes which are not resolved with a simple or obvious statement condemning racism are not incredibly funny to me.

Perhaps it is just the quintessentially British way to feel uncomfortable at any given expense. Perhaps Miele’s jokes can only appeal to people who have had similar, relatable experiences with mental health, but I just didn’t know whether to laugh or not when Miele reveals that suicide runs in her family more than cancer. It may be more engaging to an American audience, as some idioms were lost on the audience at the bathetic punch line.

Aside from these issues, Miele is a decent comedian, with her natural conversationalist wit permeating her improvisation. She adapts her act to the Edinburgh Fringe backdrop, drawing attention to the damp smelling venue and differing European mannerisms. She fondly addresses us as ‘you guys’, and I can feel how grateful she is to be here through her self-deprecating jokes about her comedy act itself.

Overall, amid the lazy jokes about sex and racism, Miele can make you laugh with her witty personality and sparkling smile. ‘Mind Over Melee’ is not something to go out of your way to see, but you’re guaranteed a few genuine and not-so-guiltless laughs if you do.

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