Claire Hooper's 'School Camp' opens with a scary story, as does any school camp. A group of students in a tent late at night, torch (or lit iPhone) beneath someone's chin for atmosphere, the tale of a girl left by her boyfriend to fend for herself against a scary forest monster… and then someone screams and everyone gets told off by the teacher. Hooper's routine doesn't necessarily follow suit, but there are some similarities.
To start, many of her stories are about sex. Fair enough, young girls talk about things like that on school camps or trips away from home with their close friends, but more than once I felt a discomfort at the level of sexuality she mentioned. In particular, I kept glancing at the eleven year old girl in the row in front of me, who laughed when everyone else did, but clearly had no understanding regarding many of Hooper's stories, ranging from illicit to mildly cheeky. And I suppose, given the ending note of the show – a story Hooper recounts involving her teacher sexually assaulting one of her friends on a camp – it's important that young girls are encouraged to speak out about anything 'off' they experience. But, it's not a particularly humourous concept, and felt like an odd thing to chat so candidly about after a comedy show.
Many of her other stories are things that everyone has experienced on a camp (well, everyone of a certain sex). She talks about her mum coming with her on camps, and how embarrassing it was to have chicken pox. She mentions eating an entire packet of dehydrated mashed potatoes, which only results in a massive headache as the potatoes drain all of the liquid out of her body. Possibly her most uncomfortable story for male audience members involves her getting her period and running out of pads while on camp, which results in a week of waddling around, trying desperately not to dislodge her makeshift toilet paper nappy.
The remaining jokes are about her, her husband, and her daughter, which range from charming to poo-flavoured, which is not necessarily unexpected when talking about a one year old.
Hooper has an interesting comedy style, very conversational, which can really encourage the 'school camp story' mentality – she's just sharing tales with friends. However, her clearly rehearsed umms and ahhs, pauses as she rephrases a sentence she just started, can be jarring, and are possibly a little too liberally sprinkled through her show. 'School Camp' ends with the remainder of the scary story, interrupted of course with an unexpected scream from the crowd, making everyone jump. It's funny, and releases some of the tension we were all holding after her confession regarding her teacher, but it can fall a little flat in comparison to the rest of the jokes. Then again, maybe I was just never one for scary stories.