Edinburgh Fringe 2023
This split hour of comedy begins with Sean Conrad’s tales of being the simultaneous janitor and manager at a comedy club, paired with Becky Goodman’s musical reminiscing on her relationship with a sixty year old married man when she was nineteen.
In the first half of this split bill, Sean Conrad tells us of moving from Southern California to New York City, having taken the Sinatra lyric “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” literally. Having arrived, the only job he is able to get is at a janitor at a comedy club, but this is not without upward mobility. Eventually he is made manager… as long as he still does the janitor stuff. These stories are bookmarked with soothing guitar music, and filled with some very kneeslap worthy puns. It is in these gentler moments where Conrad’s voice shines, and this makes some of the edgier material stick out a bit awkwardly. As it is a work ultimately about finding his voice as a comedian, I would have liked some more stories about his personal trials to get there, as well as more specific experiences about being a janitor/manager. A full fifty minutes would no doubt assist in this and give more space for Conrad’s story to breath and settle.
The second half of the split bill is Becky Goodman’s musical comedy solo show about her first relationship at nineteen years old, which just happened to be with a sixty year old married man. She has always been interested in older men, despite having a “very present father”, and after this formative eight-month relationship with Lichael (named so for anonymity), she continues to have a three-year string of dating older, married men. Goodman shines throughout this work, toeing the line between being vulnerable and laugh-a-minute hilarious in a way not often seen. Her energy is a sort of Kate McKinnon meets Emma Stone, though in her more boisterous moments, she serves Chris Farley at his SNL peak. The songs are as versatile in style as something you might get from Flight of the Conchords, but with a better grasp of lyricism. More than one song reminded me of the biting satire and rhymed wit of Ian Drury, not least the one where she is actually doing an approximation of his accent. Through these songs, we hear about her first time having sex with Lichael (or anyone) in a way that expresses what horrifying banality losing your virginity can be. Goodman dawns her vagina costume to do a rap about the clitoris that enraptures (and educates) the audience. A song that is indirectly about using humor to deflect her inner trauma, wherein she talks in a silly British accent about being potentially suicidal, is as funny as it is relatable. Her connection with the audience was palpable, and so when the comedy portion took a break and she got down to the heart of the piece, one about learning to forgive her younger self, it feels totally earned and they hung on her every word. Goodman is a phenomenal performer and writer, and ‘How to Have an Affair Without Really Trying’ is one of the favourite things I have seen at this year’s Fringe.
Ultimately, as a double bill, I think the show is done something of a disservice. I hope if Conrad and Goodman come next year, they both are able to have a slot of their own to give ‘Janitor/Manager’ the room it needs to bloom, and ‘How to Have an Affair Without Really Trying’ the single bill it is ready for. That being said, they are well worth seeing now as they are, especially so you can say you caught them before they took the Fringe by storm.