I first encountered Sophie Duker at the 2015 Funny Women Awards final, for someone only at the very beginning of their comedy career she already possessed a magnetic stage presence. Now with many more gigs, BBC writing credits and a show, Riot Girls on Channel 4, under her belt, Sophie brought her debut hour Diet Woke to Brighton Fringe in which she addresses race, feminism and Meghan Markle.
The audience filed into the extremely hot room to the Sojourner Truth speech Ain’t I a Woman? and settled into what I can only describe as… I don’t know what they were, fused together camping chairs is my best guess. Sweet Venues and The Wellington if you’re reading this then here’s a tip: benches. I mention the discomfort of the room only because it’s a testament to Sophie’s talent that she could keep the audience in such good form for an hour. And I’d really like the venue to rethink its seating options.
I honestly have no idea if it was a sound effect (nice touch if so) or the hungover tech behind me opening a can but the show started with the unmistakable sound of a can being cracked open before Sophie took to the stage and asked us if we knew what ‘woke’ meant. The term woke has certainly entered the general public’s vernacular in 2018 or the “year of fury” as Sophie dubs it.
Sophie can’t be furious today though (27th May) because of Ireland’s landslide vote to repeal the 8th Amendment and Harvey Weinstein’s arrest – though it is noted he was arrested in his own sweet time. She goes on to talk about the royal family and address the media’s clear discomfort at talking about the new Duchess of Sussex’s black heritage which has on occasion tipped over into racist. This neatly brings her to Rachel Dolezal, white people who purport a more diverse heritage, microaggression and cultural appropriation. This isn’t a rant, this is pure observational comedy from a viewpoint that is still shamefully rare on the circuit.
A highlight for me was Sophie’s take on sexism and young women today. It made me realise just how tiringly common it still is for both male and female comics to ridicule teenage girls considering – as Sophie points out – the accomplishments of various teenage girls in history.
There is a certain steeliness behind Sophie’s smart and quickfire wit, while her style is conversational and clever you get the feeling she could destroy the white male baby boomer who says he has nothing to be angry about (funnily enough) should she so choose. On this occasion, she chooses not to, which is explained really when she talks about the show title Diet Woke regarding her reasonable fear of being dismissed as a stereotype.
I look forward to Sophie Duker reaching a place where she can be full fat Woke.
Catch Sophie Duker MC Brighton Nights June at Komedia, for tickets click here!