JFL42 Review: Kate Berlant Creates an Incredible Fantasy World

The Garrison, Toronto ON, September 22

BY Audrey CarletonPublished Sep 23, 2019

Kate Berlant likes to keep her audience members on their toes.
The L.A.-based comedian is known for her character work (notably on Netflix's The Characters) and during her performance for JFL42 at the Garrison, she got to show it off. While what she's doing by all means looks like standup, she appears to remain in character the entire time, an impressive commitment for an hour of insanity.

The character she portrays is best described as a member of the East coast elite, with a love for fine art, high fashion and witchcraft. Berlant's character is better than you — she knows it, you know it, she just wants you to come to terms with it. She absolutely loathes fast fashion, so she's wearing entirely vintage and Topshop; she feels the backdrop behind her would be better if it was velvet and displayed one child and a bird, rather than the JFL42 logo; she grew up watching imports and exports come in and out of the ports of Los Angeles (a small coastal town, have you heard of it?) every morning; she is an only child, of course, and insists she's the only one in the room.
While in character, she also dives into bits of observational comedy, joking about the horrifying frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. and the obvious sexual tension that exists between siblings. And both elements of her performance are funny — both what she's saying and the way she's saying it.
As she jumps and dances around stage, flipping her hair and pulling jabs at the audience out of her pockets, she toes the line between fantasy and reality, throwing off everything we know and come to expect from a comedy set.
At one point she read off list of phrases that she says came to her in a moment of psychic fog that morning — phrases like "allergic to spelt," "Masters in Finance" and "Lawrence Helbin." While maintaining a completely "safe space" in the room, she read out the list and invited audience members to speak when a phrase calls to them. She then began to guess facts about their lives with impressive accuracy, celebrating each correct guess with a high-kick or salacious dance, leaving the room convinced that she is, in fact, a psychic.
Berlant is a whirlwind to watch, completely devoted to diving into her character while also telling compelling jokes and interacting with the audience. She makes it easy to get sucked into the fantasy world she creates on stage, but if you let yourself go there, it's oh-so-entertaining.

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