There is pretty much only one problem with Beth Stelling: If You Didn’t Want Me Then, and that is that we were not in the audience. What we mean is that this was a fun set, and we would have liked it more if it did not have the fake laugh track. We are not denying the track’s importance. We understand that it is imperative to communicate the energy of the comedian to the audience watching them through a screen. But it is annoying when the track is so evident. We acknowledge that it might be a pet peeve, but it still doesn’t sit well with us because we found Beth Stelling’s set to be decent. There weren’t many laugh-out-loud moments, but it wasn’t unfunny or boring either. She was a good storyteller and made some excellent and on-point correlations. We are thinking about how differently men and women operate as comedians with the aspect of connecting the dots and how differently the audience perceives it.
The comedy that Beth Stelling chose for If You Didn’t Want Me Then, is the personal anecdote kind. She sprinkles a few feminist jokes in the middle, and they work only because it is her lived reality, and this issue does not leave out even one aspect of a woman’s life. If a man had made those very jokes, it would have been instantly off-putting because the context would have entirely changed. But on that note, we couldn’t help but be uncomfortable with the bit about her having a crush on her babysitter. We are not questioning the crush, but the reason she thought that the way she shaped that part would be a good idea in a stand-up set. Beth Stelling clarifies that none of what she said ever happened, and while we already understood that, it was still in bad taste.
But perhaps, if we make an effort to look at the bigger picture, we will see that she may have been talking about predatory men and creating a contrast between right and wrong. She talks about her experiences with her babysitter and frat boys, and while one knew how to treat a young girl having a crush on him, the others decided that it was not their responsibility that the very girls were trying to befriend them. As we said, comedy doesn’t exist without context, so perhaps our discomfort with that bit, which is where she gets the name of her set If You Didn’t Want Me Then, comes from, is meant to make us realize that she was not talking as a grown woman who understood the world but as a young girl who was still learning about it.
Perhaps the most underrated part of the set was how Beth Stelling described her relationship with her father. She says a lot while keeping it private. It’s not something we get to see often with comedians, who believe that everything is content. While we hate the term and are sure that Beth Stelling hates it as well, we understand that she spoke about her ‘daddy issues,’ about how he would rather focus on the raccoons than his children, and Beth’s feelings of hurt at not being important enough to make it to his Christmas card. That was the coded message of the stand-up set. While we are talking about that, we must ask whether the way the set ended can be considered strong. After all, we weren’t impressed by the last five or even fifteen minutes. But the absolute final joke of the set was hilarious, and it tied everything together. Is that enough of a salvaging point for the weak material in between? Maybe that depends on whether the joke was worth hearing, and our response to that is it was. It was what put the set in perspective for us and connected her material of an hour. But our complaint remains because we did not just want to hear a mildly entertaining story; we wanted to laugh out loud.
On a different note, as we do with most comedians we watch, we checked Beth Stelling’s sun sign. She is an Aries, and we are trying to see if it makes sense. The Aries woman is supposed to embrace risks in life, but Beth Stelling has said that she wouldn’t get married. Maybe it is the final bit of self-preservation kicking in, which is supposed to be emerging from the depths of the sign’s wisdom. Since the recent stand-up comedy we watched was “Chappelle’s Home Team – Luenell: Town Business” and she was a Piscean, we are thinking about both women’s differences in energy. We admit to having a bias towards the fish, but what we are trying to say is that fire that has burned for a long time generally appears a lot more tempered down in its expression. But water is always strong and forceful. However, both will hit you hard, and you would be unwise to ignore either. Basically, astrology is funny and insightful, just like most women in comedy, and it is high time both got their due credit.
To be honest, when Beth Stelling first started talking, we were immediately prepared to not like her. That is because her manner of delivery made us think she was taking the laid-back ‘low effort route’ with her set, and we have not seen that work with other comedians in the recent past. But If You Didn’t Want Me Then exceeded our low expectations. We will not call it a ‘must watch,’ but it isn’t terrible either. Beth Stelling’s personality, stories, and jokes are decent enough that we can hear her talk for an hour, which is the runtime of her set. There is a definite lag towards the end, and a few of the other jokes need you to be a resident of the United States to make sense, but overall, she brings a smile to our faces. There is quality in her writing, and that is all we want or ask for from anything that we dare or care to watch these days.