By Anna Metzger
Libby-Come-Lately was the ADC late show on 9th March 2023, written and performed by Footlight Libby Thornton.
Student stand up comedy has a mixed reputation at best. Filled with the prejudices of friends who’d described painfully awkward Edinburgh Fringe shows where no one laughed for an hour, I was slightly apprehensive for the Libby-Come-Lately ADC late show. However, even before the lights dimmed, the buzzing, animated atmosphere that possessed the ADC on this dreary Thursday evening told me how wrong my preconceptions had been.
For an hour, Libby held the attention of the audience in the palm of her hand. With a distinctive, Phoebe Waller Bridge-esque tone, she skilfully slid between absurdisms, witty word play and touching vulnerability. The breadth of topics covered ranged from hamster sex to funerals to the Catholic church, meaning Libby left not a stone unturned.
“Libby held the audience in the palm of her hand.”
The show was creatively structured, with Libby simultaneously playing the role of compere as well as various imaginary personalities. The variety-show format prevented monotony, avoiding the pitfall of the oh-so-many ADC shows which contain moments of ecstatically funny writing but lack a cohesive overall vision. Libby’s larger-than-life characters included Mother Barbara (a preacher who’s just trying to make Jesus cool again), Jonty (the posh lad so many of us have had in our bed after a misguided Wednesday revs), and Linda (the quirky early 2000s, spandex-wearing, body-shaming aerobics coach who got the whole audience moving). While there were moments during the compere acts that felt slightly jilted and clichéd (I’m still waiting for a piece of student comedy that doesn’t make a self-effacing joke about being a Waitrose regular), the character skits were refreshingly novel.
A solo-comedy show is an incredibly vulnerable format, an aspect of the craft that Libby-Come-Lately gracefully embraced. From memorabilia of primary school infatuation to a string of jokes about masturbation (the type that are usually only reserved for a specific genre of male comedian), this was a show characterised by unflinching honesty. Moments of technical difficulty were navigated with spontaneous humour, and the ease with which Libby broke the wall between performer and audience was the mark of a seasoned comedian.
“This was a show characterised by unflinching honesty.”
Libby-Come-Lately was not primarily funny because of the writing, which although generally excellent, often seemed awkwardly uncertain about what reaction was expected from the audience. Instead, the laugh-out-long funny moments were the result of Libby’s incredible stage presence. Clearly comfortable with physical comedy, Libby-Come-Lately was a deeply embodied show that made use of the space and naturally incorporated props, powerpoint presentations, and costume changes into its execution. Although I can’t even begin to imagine the fight or flight response that cracking jokes in front of hundreds of people elicits, Libby’s seemingly-effortless occupation of the stage made it wonderfully natural for the audience to laugh along with her.
As someone whose own sense of humour normally does not consist of much more than derivative innuendo, I was truly blown away by the creative artistry of Libby-Come-Lately. The parts of the show that still make me smile to look back on are primarily the character skits, whose ingenious personalities I’d definitely enjoy watching in a Netflix comedy special. Their delicious absurdity but unwavering appeal to a shared personal experience has certainly guaranteed my attendance at whatever Libby Thornton performs next.
Feature image credits: Harri Thomas and Kirsty Turnbull
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