Melanie Vesey is a wild animal. That’s what she insists during her debut comedy special, although you wouldn’t be able to tell from the way her life is now. She contrasts her current life as a sober wife and mother with her colorful past in a way that never comes off as self-pitying, but rather embraces the steps and challenges that have led her to where she is today. Her set is peppered with almost unbelievable anecdotes from her past, stories of motherhood, and relatable anecdotes for anyone who’s either gay or over 35 (or just can’t figure out the motion sensors in those damn bathroom sinks).
“I took a break from comedy because I was happy,” Melanie starts the show off by saying, painting herself from the very beginning as a woman using personal pain to fuel her art. Her comments on her bitchy haircut and her ability to buy a $30 dress off Facebook instantly ingratiate her with the audience, bringing her down to our level and making us feel like we’re outsiders along with her. She comments on the gap between the poor and the rich, describing her interactions with the rich parents of the kids her son goes to private school with. She deftly satirizes the ridiculous habits of the exceptionally wealthy without ever coming across as bitter or resentful.
In fact, Melanie’s entire set is free of judgment; rather than blame her ex-girlfriend for shooting her (true story!), her baby daddy for leaving her 10 days after winning Project Runway, or her mother for dressing her up as a hobo when she specifically wanted to be a princess, she looks back at all of these anecdotes with a great deal of humor and an ability to laugh at herself. Having described herself in her set as a recovering drug addict, her sobriety no doubt has influenced her positive outlook, and it shows throughout the set. She constantly keeps the audience with her, never making us the butt of the joke even when gently chastising us (why do gamers never raise their hands?)
One of the best moments of her set comes in a quick recap of her entire life, told as a faux-response to a rich person saying “you’re so brave for doing stand-up comedy.” Rather than take her time with each moment of her wild past, Melanie throws it at us all at once. Apart from being a brilliant bit of comedy and giving us whiplash, this proves her chops as someone who can use comedy as social commentary; she has certainly been through enough to give her material for a dozen more comedy specials.
But just because her life is a lot better now doesn’t mean that she is going to run out of things to joke about anytime soon. Melanie describes in painful detail her son’s discovery of her and her wife’s intimate text messages, which is more than horrifying enough without the subsequent discussion of “how does lesbian sex really work?” Rather than avoid the awkwardness of the conversation, she embraces it, integrating it into her set and putting the audience in her shoes. Her repeated invitation to the audience, “Let’s go together,” leave us constantly connected with her throughout every awkward question her son has to ask about the various object that can be inserted into the… well, you can imagine. “It’s all been done before,” she says after cucumbers and Twizzlers both get crossed off the list.
Melanie’s experience with her son is then instantly contrasted with her own Halloween experience with her mother when she was five. After riffing on baby boomers and millennials, and delivering a quick tip on how to spot homophobes (a key piece of advice for any gays in the audience), she ends her set with a great bit of physical comedy parodying the motion sensors in hand sinks. If you were planning on listening to the special on Itunes or Spotify, I would definitely recommend watching it instead. Her physical movements through the set punctuate her jokes just that extra bit more, helping to really hammer home each joke and add even more color to her set.
Melanie makes excellent use of the microphone, handling it like a second skin. She exudes confidence throughout her entire performance, and if she was nervous it didn’t show at all. It helped that she had a very engaging audience who were more than willing to laugh along with her, which any experienced stand-up will know is not a guarantee. But even with an engaging audience, a comic needs fresh and original material delivered with a great sense of comedic timing- no amount of laughs from the audience will make funny someone who just isn’t funny. Her timing and likeability had me laugh out loud several times during her set, as she kept surprising me with sudden misdirection.
Something I would like to see from her in the future is further development of some of the most bizarre anecdotes from her past. I know there’s only so much one can say in one 37-minute comedy special, but when your cop ex-girlfriend shoots you we’re going to want more than just a little tease. The good news is we’ve seen her ability to capture the audience and deliver a killer set, so I have complete faith that a follow up special will be able to do that.
One of the most important things to look for in a rising comic is their ability to be relatable to the audience while simultaneously showing us something we’ve never seen before. Melanie does this with aplomb, telling us her experience as a sober lesbian in a way that anyone can relate to. Her set felt fresh, and wasn’t an attempt at copying any of the current rising female stars in comedy. In fact, her authenticity and vulnerability on stage were the best parts of her performance, and make her a rising star to watch.