Edinburgh Fringe 2023
An imagined prison bromance between Billy McFarland (Fyre Festival) and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (Jersey Shore), performed by New Jersey comedians Jenny Gorelick and Gabby Bryan
Rap music is pumping out in the upstairs room of Legends – part of the Free Fringe. It’s a make-do venue, hung with a couple of black cloths, very appropriate for the on-the-hoof comedy that follows. Gabby Bryan and Jenny Gorelick are two stand up comedians from New Jersey and they bound onto the stage in orange prison suits. These women are full of energy and the first few minutes of this show are taken up with outlining the story they are about to tell. This is a free-flowing comedy that deals with two separate stories inextricably bound up with two larger-than-life characters. Billy McFarland (whose Fyre Festival collapsed in – well – flames – in 2017 resulting in 4 years jail time in a New York state penitentiary for wire fraud) and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (former star of “Jersey Shore” who was sentenced to 8 months in prison for tax evasion). The premise is that these two are thrown together in a cell where a bromance blossoms. In reality they were in the same correctional facility, but not the same cell, but it’s a fun idea. It gives them the opportunity to explore the character of these two ne’er-do-wells.
It’s true to say that you would need to have a little previous knowledge of these events and characters to get the most out of this piece. “Any Americans in?” they ask, with a couple of responses. “This could be tough!” observes Bryan wryly, but they gain some traction when they find there are Jersey Shore fans in – and some people know about the infamous Fyre Festival. However there’s more than just a few smart remarks and dry comments to this piece – and actually that’s where most of the fun is.
Bryan plays Sorrentino with gusto – she captures accurately the enormous ego and pride in physical appearance (his family ran a tanning salon in New Jersey) and Gorelick relishes the braggadocio of wheeler-dealer McFarland. They deftly explore tropes of toxic masculinity by playing these two men with magnified flaws to the hilt. They do drop in and out of character and really spark when they riff – especially with an audience member who they ask to read in the character of a prison guard. The piece is written by Gorelick and Isaac Himmelman and neatly directed by Ashley Rodbro.
These two women have genuinely funny bones and I guess an audience will be drawn by the subject matter, so they will find their tribe. I would really love to see them play together with a free rein, with a more wide-ranging sketch format.