Review: Kate McKinnon on Ice

A multitalented performer also knows how to write for herself.

Kate McKinnon of Upright Citizen's Brigade

Kate McKinnon of Upright Citizen's Brigade Photograph: Ari Scott

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

If Kate McKinnon's peers aren't quietly jealous of her, they should be. In her third and latest solo show of sketches and characters, Kate McKinnon on Ice, she hits her stride and proves to be a rarity: a hilarious physical actor whose is also smart and funny enough to write for herself.

If you've heard her on animated TV shows, such as Venture Bros., Robotomy and Ugly Americans, or seen her on Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show, you know she has dozens of voices. Her solo act displays a tonal range that's equally wide. At one point she dances wildly and almost horizontally on a subway bench; later, as a clingy woman expressing shock at the idea that she shouldn't have texted her date a haiku, she garners laughs with only a slight pause and flit of the eyes.

McKinnon pairs simple premises with over-the-top characters (an unintelligible Latina starlet sells L'Oreal hair products), while high-concept ideas are executed more subtly. (In a Hoarders spoof, a grandmother stoically reads her will, bequeathing items such as "my shell collection—that's the shell of every shrimp, crab, clam, lobster, mussel and scallop I've eaten in the 20th and 21st centuries. I know how much you love the ocean, sweetheart.")

In fact, most of the scenes in Kate McKinnon on Ice are topical, illustrating another of her covetable comedic attributes: She is accessible. Television, pop culture and C-list celebrities are all commonly treaded ground for a reason, yet McKinnon offers fresh perspectives, including one of the funniest takes on Susan Boyle I've seen (though I didn't think I wanted to see another). During that scene and others, she relishes the opportunity to be unattractive, which is no small feat (see photo). When she plays an award-winning British actress at an audition for an American commercial for "muffin tops," the audience at first laughs at the discomfort of her veiled desperation. Then, the reactions shift to a combination of guffaws and ewws as she's forced to manipulate the fat on her bare belly into increasingly unappetizing contortions. The most enviable of her skills, however, is the one that can't be learned: an inherent and palpable sense of what's funny, the quality that makes people laugh but not know why they're cracking up. For more on that, buy a ticket.

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Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. By Kate McKinnon. Dir. Neil Casey. 30mins. No intermission.