Zoë Coombs Marr: “The Opener” at Edinburgh Fringe 2023

**** (out of 5)

In 2016 Zoë Coombs Marr won the top prize for best show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and received a nomination at the Edinburgh Fringe as well, for her “Trigger Warning” show that featured Dave, her male alter-ego edgelord hack comedian. Marr had retired the Dave character. Or at least planned to.

Now Dave’s back. Apparently he was in a coma the whole time. Which means he has a lot of catching up to do. Trump, #MeToo, the return of Dave Chappelle, the whatever of Ricky Gervais, and their attacks on the LGBTQ+ community with an emphasis on backlash against trans rights.

Marr has one of a few acts at this year’s Fringe focused on mocking these ultra-popular, super-angry straight men of comedy (Martin Urbano’s “Apology Comeback Tour” earned him a Best Newcomer nomination, even). But only Marr lets you truly behind the curtain. Hell, she’s standing in front of it, literally and figuratively, by opening as herself before becoming Dave in front of our eyes, only to later break character and sometimes exist as both Zoë and Dave in the same scene. And having Dave come out of his coma allows her the opportunity to explore time loops and the cyclical nature of civil rights.

Marr’s show also is topical enough to wonder if Zoë and Dave are deadnaming the social media platform X by calling it Twitter, and by quickly dismissing the alleged conundrum conservatives get all a-titter about regarding pronouns with an extremely relatable example of how we already use they/them all the time in casual conversation. In far less subtle moments, Dave reads from transcripts of the most recent Netflix specials for Chappelle and Gervais, wondering why Dave’s Fringe audience isn’t laughing or applauding where it says Chappelle’s and Gervais’s crowds had done so.

As Marr sincerely points out, comedians such as Chappelle and Gervais may claim they’re fighting for free speech in marginalizing their trans neighbors, while those gay neighbors are fighting just to survive.

Zoë Coombs Marr: The Opener runs through Aug. 27 at Pleasance Courtyard Above

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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