****1/2 (out of 5)
The idea of chasing fame feels all too familiar for young women Wilson’s age, at the bridge between Millennial and Gen Z, grew up with social media and YouTube, the first age group to actively seek out and obsess over broadcasting every minutia of their daily lives and constantly changing emotions, yearning for a global audience. And in the earlier part of this century, that still meant a televised audience.
Can you imagine not knowing a world without American Idol or Simon Cowell?
Now imagine you’re 15, and you suddenly (although if you’ve been at it for your whole life, not so suddenly) find yourself onstage, judged by Cowell himself, alongside Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger and “Justin Bieber’s producer” (L.A. Reid) on the inaugural American season of The X Factor in 2011. You don’t have to picture it in your head, because there’s so much filmed documentation of it all, and Wilson, now 26, is ready to take a step back and hilariously relive all of her mortifying moments with us in 2022, in both songs and confessional stories. Wilson vamps sometimes in the literal musical sense, and sometimes in an informally sultry sense, oozing with so much self-confidence and stage presence that she could never have summoned up 11 years earlier. Her singing now is dynamite. In her storytelling, there’s something of an old Hollywood or Natasha Lyonne throwback vocalization going on. But with more, dare I say it, intensity.
Even if Wilson claims the old footage still makes her cringe, she can laugh at her younger self about it all now. Perhaps because she can rest assured that her earlier brushes with TV fame have strengthened her, shaped her, and allowed her to, well, step up her game.
Emily Wilson: Fixed runs through Aug. 29, 2022, at Pleasance Courtyard (Beneath).
For more, listen to my podcast with Emily Wilson in which we discussed what happened after The X Factor ended and her journey to comedy and musical comedy and Edinburgh began.