Sara Barron, Enemies Closer at Jewish Comedy Festival
PUBLISHED: 14:46 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:10 04 December 2019
The Stoke Newington comic nominated for best newcomer talks about honesty, cruelty and judging your friends in her stand-up show at JW3 and Soho Theatre
How much is too much truth in relationships? Where does honesty end and cruelty begin? And is being judgmental always wrong?
These are some of knotty issues thrashed out in Sara Barron's stand up show Enemies Closer.
When the American comic moved to London in 2012 to live with her British husband, she realised her Yankee directness wasn't always welcome.
"I comform to these American steroetoypes," she says drily. "I tried to offer a friend consolation on a relative's death and my husband said 'I know this is coming from a good place but he doesn't want to talk about it, respect the British way.'"
After absorbing some of our British gloom, she now feels she has all of the American directness, "but none of the positivity."
In her show, Barron argues that judging others isn't negative if it comes with self-awareness and accountability.
She talks about kindness, meanness, ex-boyfriends, current husbands, all four of her remaining friends, two of her twelve enemies, of hating those you're supposed to love (your friends, your friends' children) and loving those you're supposed to hate.
"It came out of being in my 30s, hating all my friends and thinking about the positive and negative aspects of being judgmental. It carries all this negativity, but if you are bad at it you are mean and cruel, and if you are good at it you are insightful and honest. I'm hanging by a thread with my best friends. Those friendships are so intimate, almost like romances, but if you have a husband, a job and kids you can think 'I don't have the room for your sh*t'".
Barron lives in Stoke Newington with fellow comic Geoff Lloyd and their three year old son.
They met on air when Lloyd booked her on his podcast as an author and writer for Vanity Fair.
"He was in New York and needed an extra guest for his radio show. I remember thinking how British radio is so superior to American radio and that he seemed to crackle with intelligence in a way that was very different to what I had known before. I guess he wowed me with his mind."
He later encouraged her to have another go at stand-up which she'd tried in her 20s.
Something clicked and last year she was nominated for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy awards.
She found the British comedy scene more "broad-minded than New York" and adds: "In 2002 it was still one woman on the bill maybe one person of colour, and the rest were white men. 15 years on, what stand up is and how people approach it has changed.
It was like a second marriage, everything was fine in my old career, but there was a sense of 'is this the one?
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Then I tried open mic and it was this big romance - plus my husband has helped me to turn it more into stand up and less aimless chatter".
Not only is she appearing at JW3's Jewish Comedy Festival on December 11 but she has just announced a run of shows in March at Soho Theatre.
Barron says her Jewishness is both important and irrelevant.
"It's not particularly relevant to my act, I don't talk about it, and here it doesn't feel relevant to my identity as an American, but American Jews talk about being Jewish all the time. If you met my mother it would come up within five minutes even though we aren't particularly religous. Here it doesn't get talked about, you could know someone for years before you realised.
After seven years here my sense of myself as Jewish, which was always sort of strong but not hugely strong, got dialled down. As did everything about being so direct and American."
Despite that, Barron's act is sexually frank.
I ask if there has been a post #Metoo post Fleabag effect for female comics?
"I don't think 'wow I can be dirty just because Phoebe Waller Bridge is doing it' but I do think there's very much an appetite now to hear from women about their experiences. I am very rude, for better or worse that's my style, it's not a choice. What I love about Fleabag is it's not at the cost of being insightful, it's underpinned with intelligence and she's got a lot to say too."
As "the soldier on the ground", this year's Edinburgh audiences weren't all up for her schtick.
"It was the same show every night but half the time, people who looked like older audiences weren't ready for my rudeness and half the time they looked more like I do, and were really ready."
Her new material is about motherhood, but she points out that young children and comedy gigs are mutually exclusive.
"I did it for 30 people in a basement in London and realised you can't talk to people about potty training who haven't been through it. They don't have a clue what you're talking about, the women who want to hear their experience reflected back won't be in the room with you."
The Jewish Comedy Festival runs December 5-11 with a line-up including award-winning creator of Radio 4's Peer Group Alex Edelman, a discussion of 10 moments that changed comedy between novelist Howard Jacobson and Mock The Week creator Don Patterson, and a set from Konstantin Kisin and Noam Shuster. jw3.org.uk
Sara Barron's Enemies Closer runs at Soho Theatre Downstairs from March 9-21 at 9.30pm.