Originally from near the Irish seaside town of Cobh, comedian Maeve Higgins has since made a name for herself in a much larger metropolis on the edge of the Atlantic. The writer, comic, and actor now lives in New York City and regularly appears on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, was part of the revived National Lampoon Radio Hour, and has become a staple of the Brooklyn comedy scene. She’s remained connected to Ireland, though, starring in the 2019 Irish horror comedy Extra Ordinary (alongside Will Forte) and writing a column for the Irish Examiner.
In one of her latest pieces, which touches on what it’s like to live in New York, Higgins describes herself as “restless,” an adjective that’s also applicable to her hilarious, breezy debut (sort of—she released an LP in 2011 that’s still available to stream) comedy album, A Very Special Woman. Higgins flits from one subject to the next with little or nothing by way of transition (except for the meta moment when she points out how handy “link lines” are). However, that works for her comedy, which is wonderfully scattered and whimsical. One minute she’s imagining her ideal funeral (right before her wedding day, flower girls scattering lily petals, the works), the next she’s telling us how best to make friends.
The dream funeral bit is one of my favorite jokes on the album because a) it plays into the macabre stereotype that Irish people love funerals, and b) it lets Higgins do what she does best: paint an evocative and humorous picture with words. Higgins balances that very millennial line between self-deprecation and notions of grandiosity, much like fellow comic Catherine Cohen, but the Irish performer opts for vivid, detailed mental images instead of Cohen’s cabaret. You can tell Higgins is a wordsmith from the way she mines a bit about her mouth, describing it in a number of funny, creative ways (my favorite being “where the flesh of my face ends”). The millennial relatability factor is not to be underestimated, either. We’re a generation who’ve been trained by social media to care about the image we’re projecting over all else, so it’s both hilarious and biting when Higgins mentions wanting to be perceived as good, or preferring the idea of reading to the actual activity. Higgins captures feelings that are universal, but is also inventive enough to keep these jokes from feeling tired.
Another highlight of A Very Special Woman are Higgins’ attempts at impressions. She even starts off the album pretending to be American, and her accent isn’t half bad until she turns into a Southern belle. Others are intentionally muted, and a number of impressions come out sounding like Grover from Sesame Street. Higgins’ good-natured goofiness makes these moments all the more humorous.
Whether you’re familiar with her already or just getting to know Higgins, this album is an excellent introduction to a comedian who will keep you guessing—and, most importantly, laughing—at every turn.
A Very Special Woman is out now via PGF Records on Apple Music, Spotify, or wherever you listen to comedy.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.