by Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin
I know that the show is not made with me in mind. It’s for people that have teenage children or have had them in the past. I still find laughs as Ghastly has created a tight hour of content over the past few years and it’s definitely gotten sharper since I saw it in Whangārei. I can’t help but read up on the review Jenny Nimon published under Art Murmurs of the same set and seeing a similar content about polish. Props to Ghastly for delivering such curated content, so successfully, for so long!
I think the subversion of the Inspirational Speaker framing of the show comes from Ghastly’s peppering of out-dated slang and fun use of cringiness with her over-confident performance persona. I enjoy this a lot because it leads into the theme that there is no perfect way of parenting! The concept is harmful and a joke in itself and Ghastly does well to lean into that with her pretentious and snarky character. There is an opportunity to lean genuinely into this theme but that lies with the artist and what kind of show they wish to present.
My criticism of the show is with Ghastly’s audience interaction. I find that calling upon members of the audience without them volunteering themselves is a risky move. Particularly one member of the audience who is chosen by Ghastly early in the show and is routinely made fun of with snide comments by Ghastly. They are given no chance of redemption or to be held in a fun or rewarding way which is risky because if you pick the wrong person you’ve ruined their night. I get that it’s easy, and you may go years without picking the wrong person, but it makes me uncomfortable as an audience member when performers choose people at random without giving them agency over the evening they paid money for.
The Cool Mum does a great job of presenting parts of life we have come to accept, the grunting and rudeness of teenagers, the cringiness of parents, and by putting them on a pedestal gives us a chance to really laugh at our situation. I have no idea what it feels like to parent someone, but from the energy in the crowded Tapere Nui it feels as though people really appreciate having their experience be reframed in a joyous way, fully articulating the experience as the absurd nature documentary that it is.
If you're lucky then you could catch the final Jo Ghastly - The Cool Mum show in Pōneke tonight but if you can't then you should definitely keep an eye out if it comes to a center near you.