There's always a worry as a reviewer that a negative review will be used in a comedian's next show as a bit. This fear is elevated by having heard Yuriko Kotani do just that—admittedly with a much worse review than this will be.
Yuriko Kotani, named as One To Watch by Time Out in 2015, gave a one-hour show that was billed as being about her experiences and thoughts in her second language. In reality, it was a bit all over the place in a way that made Kotani seem very nervous and not like she's been doing stand-up for 7 years.
The sold out show lent itself well to the intimate setting, allowing for some audience interaction and a brief Japanese lesson halfway through. Kotani warned us that because the work in progress show was ahead of Edinburgh Fringe, the jokes would be a mix of 'some funny, some very funny, and some shit'. In my opinion, it was a questionable bag of some jokes that emitted a chuckle or titter, and some moments that were just so baffling and unending that I found myself zoning out.
Kotani was clearly very nervous, and this was one of her first shows back since the start of the pandemic. She was at her best when making jokes about the differences between Japanese and British culture, but even then there wasn't really a new angle to jokes she made that countless others have made before, often in more nuanced ways. She says all the Japanese people are currently at work, including her; she tells us she's a Londoner now because of her high rent and being able to move people on the tube escalator with her aura. A political joke about that time Nigel Farage had a milkshake thrown on him in June 2019 just felt outdated.
A big section of the show seemed to rely on the audience having seen Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which many may have done considering its popularity and 1991 release date. However, for those who hadn't, a synopsis just highlighting the relevant points I'm sure could have gone a long way to making some of the jokes funnier. However, as someone who's watched the film, that long way just wouldn't be enough.
Towards the end of the show, Kotani revealed she was scared to argue back to a negative reviewer because of 'what could happen to him at his work'. She encouraged people to be fearless, to work on self-care despite how exhausting it can be, and to stand up for ourselves. Those are important lessons in amongst a poorly executed performance that feels very unsure and all over the place.
Yuriko Kotani: Work in Progress will be at PierWerks from Wednesday, June 16 to Friday, June 18. To buy tickets, visit https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/yuriko-kotani-work-in-progress-153811/