Review: How to Live, Laugh and Love (with Sophie Stemmons)

A hilarious stand-up show by Footlight Sophie Stemmons, which had the audience in stitches

How to Live, Laugh, and Love hit the packed-out ADC last night to constant applause, screams, and eventually a standing ovation. Written and performed entirely by experienced and evidently popular Cambridge Footlight Sophie Stemmons, although this one-night-only stand-up show was originally pitched as a sketch about mental health, it soon diverged into a wider-ranging sketch about student life in Cambridge, with Stemmons tackling life as a Jewish lesbian, former (unsuccessful and generally hilarious) dates-gone-wrong, and more.

The show was loosely based around the premise of a mental health support group over the course of which Stemmons took to the stage as both the support group leader and as, well, herself. After being asked by the support group leader (or rather, by herself) to give the room three fun facts about herself, she introduced herself to us as Sophie, and ended up chatting to us naturally for over an hour – so naturally, in fact, that when the sketch was interrupted at the end by the group leader’s reappearance over the speakers, I’d forgotten that this was even the premise at all, as I was so wrapped up in the comedy.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, apparently: when the punchlines hit their intended mark, they had the audience whooping and cheering, and even when they didn’t entirely land with everyone, they were still met with giggles and applause alike by the (probably more than slightly drunk) ADC.

Indeed, the show’s success is largely due to Sophie Stemmons’ commendable natural stage presence, which I’ve seen in action at a number of her shows before. She commanded the stage from the moment she walked on at a little past 11pm, with the audience holding their breath to catch every line before bursting into laughs, and as a result, the entire of How to Live, Laugh, and Love felt more like a (one-sided) conversation than it did a scripted sketch show (which is remarkable, as Stemmons did occasionally check her prompts throughout, but this never once hindered the show’s ultimate effect).

While Stemmons made use of a couple of re-written and sometimes improvised songs here, and a fair amount of audience participation reared its head, too, she relied primarily on the pre-written sketches I’ve already mentioned, and it turns out that self-deprecating humour and dark jokes work a charm with the relaxed post-exam Cambridge cohort.

Ultimately, this type of show was just what the doctor ordered: the perfect way for 100+ students to celebrate the end of a painful exam term and the beginning of the (hot!) Cambridge summer. And – as much as I never thought I’d be saying this – by the end of How to Live, Laugh, and Love, Sophie Stemmons had almost made me want to watch the kids’ show Paw Patrol, of all things. Life is full of surprises – and what a show this was.


How to Live, Laugh and Love was performed for one night only at the ADC Theatre at 11pm on Tuesday 14th March, and was recommended for audiences aged 15+. The show’s Camdram page can be viewed here

Feature image credits: Vidya Divakaran