There aren’t many cleverer hours of standup at the Fringe this year than American comedian Jacqueline Novak’s How Embarrassing For Her. Novak is well known in her native New York, but this is her debut in Edinburgh. And what a debut – a wonderfully relatable, superbly smart show.
This might sound weird, but just go with it. How Embarrassing For Her is, first and foremost, about penises. More specifically, it’s about blowjobs. Even more specifically, it’s about Novak’s blowjob journey, from high-school rookie terrified but determined to suck someone off, to old hand confidently giving head like a pro.
But it’s also not about blowjobs at all. Yes, there are quite a lot of well-crafted, slyly subversive dick jokes—the penis, Novak contends, is actually the most feminine bodypart; she’s got a point when you think about it—but Novak’s real focus is much more high-brow. Much more philosophical.
She slowly but surely manages to turn her embarrassing anecdotes about blowjobs into a wide-reaching and remarkably literary metaphor for personal development, for the narratives we frame our lives by, and for the ultimate unattainability of perfection. Because, Novak eventually hypothesises, isn’t life basically one slightly toothy blowjob after all?
It’s an expertly crafted show, cohesive, cogent and joyously relatable from start to finish. And Novak is a hugely engaging performer, laying her whirring thoughts bare with frenetic wit and bubbly warmth throughout. It’s her first Fringe this year. Pray that it won’t be her last.