The surrealist comic, daughter of Irish Catholic parents, on marrying a famous atheist and why bananas are funny
Bridget Christie enters Belfast's Black Box dressed in full bishop’s attire, emerging from the back of the room to a jazz-rock soundtrack and flamboyantly showering the audience with communion wafers.
Oh, and she’s also sporting a fetching pair of gorilla gloves. The title of the show, Housewife Surrealist, seems entirely appropriate. She opens her set with an example of banana-based anti-comedy, which explains the primate palms.
'Every good comic knows the banana is the funniest prop,' Christie proclaims, peeling the fruit. 'Not only are there some phallic laughs to be had, but when I’m done, I can slip on the peel.' No arguments here.
Thankfully, Christie doesn’t follow through with the latter, but instead slowly and silently chomps her way through the banana to a somewhat bemused reaction from her audience.
As she takes her last bite (still wearing the gloves and robes), she addresses the confused crowd: 'What? If I saw this happening I’d find it hilarious!' The ridiculousness of it all hits home and, while it might exactly not be 'hilarious', it is good silly fun.
After this intro and some de rigueur Belfast banter about murals (she likes the horses), the gloves come off, both literally and figuratively. The pontifical vestments remain, however, and for good reason.
What follows is a celebration and exploration of Christie’s faith. Raised a Catholic by devout Irish parents, Christie married an outspoken atheist (comedian Stewart Lee) and put down roots in a particularly trendy spot of London where secularism reigns supreme.
Rather than being lofty, however, Christie keeps the subject light-hearted, talking about religion in the same way she talks about her family, finding both of them difficult, embarrassing, often in the wrong, yet still important parts of her life that she loves.
The surreal aspect of the show is toned down slightly in favour of anecdotes and one-liners, with Christie’s family, friends and faith all in for some playful jibing. Militant atheists also get a bit of stick.
A particularly funny tale revolves around Christie enraging Richard Dawkins by calling him Jesus, after spotting him wearing sandals in a television studio’s green room. 'Don’t insult the man and then expect to wear his footwear unchallenged!'
There are transubstantiation gags aplenty ('They want to have their Jesus and eat him too'). There are also charming insights into Christie’s home-life and the juxtaposition of her faith and her husband’s atheism.
A stand-out anecdote is a rib-tickling tale about how the comic believes her sceptical spouse was wedgied by Napoleon’s ghost when visiting his tomb, whereas Lee puts it down to a repressed memory coming to the fore.
The show isn’t laugh-a-minute, but there are plenty of chuckles to be had, as well as some food for thought. Clocking in at just over an hour long, Housewife Surrealist is as concise as can be. It picks up speed as it goes along, culminating in a riotously funny re-enactment of the Ascension, complete with Jesus puppet.
Christie’s biggest strength is undoubtedly her ability to paint a picture with wordplay. She describes being a Catholic as like ‘standing beside a shimmering pool, waiting to jump in and have a lovely splash, but there’s someone in a mitre being sick in the deep end’.
Unfortunately, however, she chooses to chastise the unresponsive audience a few too many times ('Wow, you guys are… great listeners'). Housewife Surrealist is still a refreshing look at religion from a viewpoint not often explored on the comedy circuit.