Emmy Award-nominated for playing a standup comedian, how good is Hannah Einbinder at being a standup comedian? If the success of HBO series Hacks has put any pressure on its star’s real-world standup, you could hardly tell from her London visit, which showcases an act in fine command of her distinctive comic persona. This Soho theatre outing may be more of an appearance than a show – it lasts only 45 minutes, and makes no particular effort to cohere. But it leaves a strong impression of a talent with more than just a hit TV show to offer.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Einbinder is the scion, after all, of a comedy dynasty: her mum Laraine Newman was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live. That’s not mentioned on stage, but Newman fille puts her identity as a dissolute daughter of Tinseltown front and centre. Her delivery is all studied LA drawl, surrounded by potent silences. She self-presents, and self-deprecates, as a 27-year-old casualty of weed, the ADHD drug Adderall, and 12 years of therapy. Her damage – all of our damage – is taken as read, and her responses to the world are the slow, sideways and dismayed responses of a not-quite-recovered stoner.
Apply this sensibility to the preponderance of male trees in New York, say, or Einbinder’s experience of her first period, and you get some wonderfully brazen but brittle comedy. There is a choice routine casting the burning planet Earth as an abused Italian-American spouse, and a droll 1920s act-out, replete with peppy Jazz Age voices, throwing shade on modern social-mediatised living.
None of this necessarily connects with anything else. But Einbinder makes a virtue of the variety. There’s always a new means up her sleeve to make us laugh, whether that’s the unfolding comedy of her facial expressions in that menstruation routine, or the bursting into Hebrew song that tees up her finale. That unfolds at the funeral of her grandmother, another inspirational female elder who, not unlike Hacks’ Deborah Vance, blazed a trail for their descendants to follow. On this short but striking evidence, Einbinder will do them all proud.
• At Soho theatre until 8 October.