Laura Smyth: Living My Best Life review – a comic with swagger and the popular touch

<span>On home turf … Laura Smyth at the Hackney Empire.</span><span>Photograph: Jiksaw</span>
On home turf … Laura Smyth at the Hackney Empire.Photograph: Jiksaw

“I’m doing alright for myself, gang!” That’s quite the understatement. Laura Smyth at Hackney Empire is more than just a comedy show, it’s a triumphal procession for the east Londoner returning to home turf. Her rise has been dizzying if not without difficult detours, the former teacher winning the Funny Women award six months after her first gig, appearing on Live at the Apollo two weeks after her treatment concluded for stage 3 cancer – and now a fixture on the nation’s TV screens. Here then is the maiden live tour, to show uninitiates what the fuss is about.

It’s about, first and foremost, a comic with swagger, and the very sure popular touch to back it up. Smyth knows who she is, a gobby working-class woman who gambled and won, but only after she’d paid her dues raising kids, gossiping in staff rooms and keeping things afloat via buy now, pay later lenders. That’s the hinterland drawn on in Living My Best Life, which majors in blunt putdowns of anything the 42-year-old finds up-itself or overrated. Her daughter’s concern for boundaries? Give over. Mental health? “Everyone’s got mental ’ealth nowadays!” And as for holidays? Give Smyth a cosy stay in hospital any time.

This is not a novel standup attitude – but Smyth isn’t trying to be original. Her routine about workplace backchat is wickedly enjoyable, while leaning on familiar men-do-this, women-do-that generalisations. The quarter-hour of blue humour towards the end is vividly realised, but its comedy of unglamorous midlife sex is itself long in the tooth. There are cruel jokes about fat people – not wholly redeemed by Smyth cracking them partly at her own expense.

Happily, she usually refreshes the commonplace worldviews by force of ebullient personality and some excellent material – like the gag imagining her menopausal flushes as delayed embarrassment for indiscretions in her 20s, or the tableau vivant of gormlessness she performs, by facial expression alone, of a dumbstruck pupil encountering their teacher in the street. The cheers, the love, the dancing in the aisles aren’t just because Smyth is a hometown girl, but because she’s a big-hitting, good-time comic too.

Touring to 7 November