Meg Stalter: Little Miss Ohio review – happy parade of hopeless wannabes

Brian Logan
·2-min read

Disastrous for many comedians, lockdown has propelled others to prominence – notably, those who’d already made a home online. Meg Stalter is a much touted US act with a string of viral videos behind her – short, sharp bursts of sweet/sad and silly character comedy. With her 40-minute special, Little Miss Ohio, she adds to the parade of delusional alter egos, flogging their perfect lives to an audience that can’t miss the scream behind the brittle smile.

To Stalter first-timers, the special announces a formidable new talent. It’s a solo sketch show, whose cast all hail from the titular midwestern state, spliced with vintage beauty-pageant footage. Is 21st-century online self-curation so different from these Miss Ohio contests of old? Competitors here include Krystal, over-zealous customer of Miami Valley Gaming casino, staking out her parking space two hours before opening. Then there’s Casey, who wanted to be a famous actor but is equally happy working in Waffle House (“If any job in the world could be like being on Broadway, y’know …”); and “Kenzie from church”, ringing round her back-sliding congregation.

These talkative types are recognisable from Stalter’s online videos and to anyone who’s ever watched the comedy of zero self-knowledge, of yawning gulfs between aspiration and attainment. The culture of self-projection via social media has multiplied the opportunities for comics with an ear for this stuff. And Stalter’s is unerring. It’s simple, painfully so, to see what her characters are trying to achieve – what they tell themselves they are achieving – even as their desolation radiates out of the screen.

I’m not sure these longer-form sketches are quite as fruitful as Stalter’s quick-hit work elsewhere. I found myself marvelling, if not always laughing, at her writing and acting: the malapropisms, the wacky voices failing to conceal her characters’ awkwardness, the not-quite-imperceptible flashes of panic. Mind you, the humour is intentionally more bittersweet than belly laugh, as when an ex-beauty queen starts sobbing – a lovely moment – at the sight of her old tiara. There’s warmth here, a flair for portraiture, winning touches of absurdity – and a performing talent that marks Stalter out as a star in the making.

Meg Stalter: Little Miss Ohio is available on YouTube.