Alicia Dattner shines in comedy of ‘One Life Stand’ at The Marsh

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Morgan Schmidt Feng/Courtesy

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Dating, politics, yoga pants, dieting — Alicia Dattner’s stand-up show covered all of these topics and more. Ranging in subject matter, yet strung together seamlessly, Dattner’s set on Friday made for a clever and humorous performance that hit the mark.

Dattner’s show “One Life Stand,” playing at The Marsh in Berkeley through Sept. 29, is her first return to stand-up after a string of one-woman shows with storylines attached. With “One Life Stand,” Dattner hones in on her style of comedy, which can be both funny and serious. Using comedy to bring real-world issues and topics into focus, Dattner’s show makes for a night of jokes that are grounded in reality and all the more effective for it.

Dattner began her set by asking, “So, should I get a nose job?” She then clarified that she wants to make it bigger so it’ll look more Jewish. It’s a silly note to start on, considering the comedy that followed strongly integrated a serious tone. Serious comedy indeed, Dattner’s stand-up effectively walks the line between humor and weighty topics, occasionally even pausing the humor to speak seriously for a few moments sans punchlines.

It wasn’t long into the show before politics came up. Dattner addressed current issues, including the fight for environmentalism during a presidency that pushes back — bringing up an Earth Day with no Earth to celebrate. Politics, which are often integrated into comedic sets, have a different tone in Dattner’s show. A serious inflection is consistently underlying the jokes. The punchline remains funny but also acts as a reminder that these issues are vital, perpetual and must be talked about.

Another weighty topic addressed was the role that the #MeToo movement now has in dating life. This topic was brought up in a straightforward manner, with Dattner directly discussing how fed-up women are with inequality and how the movement is changing that. Dattner spoke so ardently on the topic that the joke she did make — about how women have been saying they’re fed up since the feminist movements of the ‘60s, but that they really mean it now — almost went unnoticed, garnering only a few laughs.

Having first addressed the severe nature of the topic, Dattner then slipped back into jokes with more traditional punchlines. The setting of that weighty baseline made way for hilarious and successful jokes about men being scared of losing their privilege.

The juxtaposition of serious and funny seems like it should be jarring and disjointed, but it only made the jokes funnier. By first making it clear that these topics are relevant issues, Dattner allows for a space in which these topics can be laughed at together, without forgetting their severity.

Dattner continued on the topic of dating, which made for a significant portion of her show. She talked about the struggles of being single, including advice from couples and the impatience of waiting for something substantial to come along. She poked immense fun at herself and the ways in which she prevents herself from having a successful relationship. In one bit, she emphasized how she is “all in” when she finds someone she likes, repeating the sentiment over and over, “until they are.” With a topic as universal as love and her unfettered honesty, these jokes received some of the best laughs from the audience.

The night ended on a musical number in which Dattner addressed her future man: She crooned, “Are you looking for me yet?” The chorus consisted of Dattner repeating, “Pick me, pick me, pick me.” She encouraged the audience to sing along, with seemingly everyone happily complying. It was a fitting ending to a set in which Dattner put herself fearlessly at the core of her jokes.

Dattner’s captivating confidence drove the whole show. Whether she was ruthlessly making fun of herself or pushing boundaries on difficult topics, Dattner approached each of them the same way: without holding back. The result was a humor-filled night of comedy to not only make you laugh but also to make you think.

Contact Nikki Munoz at [email protected].