Olga Koch: If/Then

Wearing a Kimmy Schmidtsized grin and a leopard print jumpsuit, Olga Koch unleashes her most diabolical creation yet – a hyper intelligent A.I to act as her personal assistant. It’s meant to check her balances and prevent her doing anything stupid, but it still allows her to go on stalking her ex-lovers, livestreaming funerals and accusing Hermione Granger of bestiality.

As a hotshot programmer, Koch decodes western attitudes towards women working in the sciences. Stemming from of a lack of gendered roles in the Soviet era, her grandmother was a hard working computer scientist, inspiring her to take up the subject at NYU. What she found there wasn’t the cold war equality of the past, but the patronising attitude of men working in computers talking down to women trying to break into the field.  If/Then refers to a control flow statement in programming that rings true to the way Koch feels women are talked down to, prejudiced by archaic attitudes about their power to make decisions.

As a cold teenager Koch moved to New York City and warmed up to comedy, giving her the outward appearance of a bubbly UCB performer with an irreverent stand-up sensibility lurking beneath. There’s a fun and punchy rhythm about her that’s reminiscent of early Sarah Silverman, but instead of being a super mean Jewish princess she’s a self-depreciating Russian one. Her sex life occasionally becomes exciting when she meets someone who looks like her brother, steering into Fatal Attraction territory when a large part of her psyche becomes fixated on her ex-boyfriend’s fiancés tighter than tight pussy muscles. Koch has energy swinging from the rafters, from dabbing on stage in bouts of self-congratulation to jumping down into the audience to explain a silly joke, also showing great flex in getting deadpan when it’s needed.

Some of the best moments of If/Then are when Koch is desperately trying to hold back laughing throughout her stories. The jokes are great but having a call and response dynamic with a H.A.L like robot that sounds like Microsoft Sam doesn’t add much to the show. It’s a valiant attempt at tying the themes of computer programming and relationships together but it slows down the pace quite a bit making it’s presence hard to justify. Beyond the experimental elements Olga Koch remains a fantastic comedic mind with an observant eye. The hybrid perspectives of the conservative old country mixed with the hilariously questionable sensibilities of a Brooklyn hipster have made her effortlessly likeable and a joy to watch.

★★★★

Peter Carson

Olga Koch: If/Then Monkey Barrel 1 16:30

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