The following is mostly spoiler free as MacLeod-Whiting’s craft needs to be experienced live – she’ll make it worth your time!
MacLeod-Whiting successfully sets the tone of her show by acknowledging the “panic-bought” pink sparkly backdrop behind her. According to MacLeod-Whiting, it’s giving 21st Birthday, and we’re about to hear the Birthday girl's indulgently-long speech. The first few segments of the show are very funny: MacLeod-Whitling welcomes us into her space (‘‘Cavern Club, Tuesday night’), and she’s immediately likable. However, it’s as we start to get to the meat of ON-BRAND, I know it’s a home run.
MacLeod-Whiting swings effortlessly from observational to autobiographical, to character comedy. The segues between each gag are seamless, I find myself laughing about Songs of Solomon and condom brand names in the same minute, but it’s the pacing that gives her set real oomph. MacLeod-Whiting knows just when to pepper in one-liners that clearly deviate from the written content. These little pockets of improv keep the set conversational, but it’s MacLeod-Whiting’s reactions to her own offers that I enjoy the most. As the intrusive thoughts win, MacLeod-Whiting playfully scolds herself - this energy builds throughout the show, providing her audience a satisfying, ‘yeah I went there (and I did not expect to!)’.
I want to give particular props to MacLeod-Whiting’s character work, which provides ON-BRAND a distinctive polish. Linda, the skill-building Workshop-coordinator, and Ruby, the 23-year-old with medically symmetrical boobs are hilariously accurate and nuanced.
I start to cry-laugh, however, when MacLeod-Whiting accidentally name-drops someone. It’s not the name-drop on its own that annihilates me, but the direct address to the reviewer that follows, it’s a hilarious manic pleading with the aforementioned playful self-scolding. It allows ON-BRAND to hit the absurdity curve just so, and I’m so warm in the last few segments that a mere eyebrow twitch sets me off again.
MacLeod Whiting should be reassured that stand-up comedy is exactly her calling. ON-BRAND is a hit debut with 50 minutes of unwavering hilarity, and if it’s not clear by now, I wholeheartedly recommend you go see it. It’s on at Canvern Club from now until the 20th of May, get tickets from the Comedy Festival website.
Disclaimer: Lesa MacLeod-Whiting is part of Tiny Dog, an Improv company that my close comedy partner is also a part of. I’ve done my best to give a fair review, but if you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org