When I walked into the modest theatre reserved for some of Fringe Comedy Festival’s performances Saturday last, I didn’t know what to expect. But the second the US national anthem started to play, and Jackie Loeb appeared beneath overly dramatic lighting and belted out a legitimately amazing rendition, complete with choreography, I knew exactly what I was in for: Irreverent Awesomeness.
The opening performance was followed by an immediate and genuine connection with the audience — if you’re planning to see her soon, and I hope you do, don’t be surprised if she looks you right in the eye and teases you for a good bit. That said, the teasing isn’t hurtful or overwhelming. All of that’s downplayed when she really gets going, because her performance, dubbed So Much to Celebrate, is an earnest and, yes, hilarious bout of both self-deprecation and celebration of her flaws.
Really, it’s hard for me to call this an actual performance; through all of her anecdotes and songs (this woman can sing something fierce, and she does so whenever the opportunity presents itself) and impressions (Shakira, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Cher, and Celine Dion, to name just a few), I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d known her for years. Maybe it was the very intimate setting, or the way she unabashedly made herself laugh (or we made her laugh), or the fact that I have a soft spot for a lady with an Australian accent, but when Jackie Loeb decided that the best way to get a latecomer up to speed with what he missed was to revisit her Shakira impression (which involved shaking and grabbing her tummy fat), I knew that sudden parrumph in my chest was parrumphing due to an instantaneous friend crush.
In fact, Loeb was so clearly comfortable on stage, and with herself — constantly referring to her lackluster love life, her age, and her pudge — you sometimes got the feeling she was doing everything off the cuff, just for shits and giggles, until a specific stage cue (lights, sound, etc.) proved otherwise.
All in all, it was a great night. And by the end of it — after the hour-long performance that felt far too short for this brand new Loebiest — the name of the show made complete sense. There she was, Jackie Loeb, in all her glory; definitely someone to celebrate.