Features

Meet the Women running LGBTQ-friendly Comedy Nights

What’s up Funny Women! This is Siân Docksey about to drop the hottest guest blog since someone decided that was a thing (i.e. me, just now.) I’m launching my new alternative comedy night Permitted Fruit at a lovely new LGBTQ-friendly venue that warmly welcomes anyone and everyone, so I decided to have a chat with the boss LGBTQ women who run comedy nights in London. Read on for their excellent tips and to play the accidentally-created drinking game ‘How many more times will Siân derail her own interview by talking about astrology?’

The LOL Word

Siân Docksey: Hey Chloe, Chloe, Rachel, Ruby and Jodie i.e. the queer comedy powerhouse that is The LOL Word. How did you all meet and what made you want to start your own night?

The LOL Word: It all started because Shelf (Rachel and Ruby) had a full month run booked for Edinburgh Fringe but were worried Ruby wouldn’t get the whole month off work. Rachel still wanted to go for the whole thing so gathered her fave queer female/non-binary comedian mates and decided to do a mixed bill together for the first half of Edinburgh Fringe. As it happened Ruby did get the whole month off of work and The LOL Word was born. We discovered a mixed bill of queer female/non-binary comedians was actually really popular and a lot of fun, so we decided to keep doing it when we got back to London.

Last time I came to The LOL Word, someone from a women’s’ football team asked at the door if there was somewhere she could store her football. Are there specific considerations you take into account when you’re running a night for mostly queer people?

Footballs are definitely a big consideration. Then things like gender-neutral toilets and trying to be as accessible as possible (which we’re currently working on with The Albany). Other than that the main thing is just good vibes, creating an atmosphere that makes people feel comfortable and makes them want to laugh.

I usually work on comedy stuff with my best pal Zoe, and we fall into a very introvert-extrovert division of labour – i.e.: she does all the important stuff behind the scenes that makes the show happen, and I bounce around and tell people about it. What’s the advantage of being part of a collective? WHO’S THE DADDY? Are there things you disagree about?

The biggest advantage is definitely that each person brings their own skills to the table: Chloe Green is a social media powerhouse and runs all of the Twitter and Facebook posts and is 100% of the reason people even know what we’re doing. Chloe Petts seems to know absolutely everyone in comedy and gets us some amazing opportunities. Jodie Mitchell similarly knows a butt ton of people and also does podcasts and drag king-ing and widens our reach past comedy audiences. Ruby Clyde does things to an excel spreadsheet like nobody else and generally keeps everything organised and ticking over. And Rachel WD answers emails and does things like answer these questions for the gang because everyone else is busy. We all unanimously agree that Rachel is the daddy.

Wacky Racists – powered by Sophie Duker

Siân Docksey: Hey Sophie! How are you today and how is your solo show?

Sophie Duker: I’m hungry today, but I’ll try not to mention it. My solo show Venus is in my brain-kitchen just marinating. Just sort of sloshing around in a saucy bath of my hopes and dreams, which happen to be peri-peri flavoured.

Your monthly night Wacky Racists platforms performers of colour but also brings in voices you feel aren’t seen or heard enough on the mainstream circuit. Do you deliberately stretch that out onto the LGBTQ scene, or is that a happy accident? 

I’m wet for queerdos in general. For upcoming Wacky shows I’m currently courting some of your finest white LGBTQ comics (inc. Shon Faye, Rosie Jones, Joe Sutherland) because they’re funny, just like all the POC booked, some of whom are also queer! Magic happens where scenes overlap and support each other.

As an out Aquarian, do you feel under extra pressure to talk about identity politics in your stand-up? 

I’m under enough pressure trying to seem hilarious, hot and approachable simultaneously. But I guess the more I’m authentically me, the more audiences realise hey, black queer women in dungarees are people too!

What is the most unexpected thing a performer (or audience member) has done at Wacky Racists so far?

Miss Venezuela (Dre Spisto) made out with a piñata. No-one saw that coming.

My golden rules of comedy are 1) Don’t eat the props, and 2) If you really fancy someone in the audience you will shit up the gig, Siân. Do you have any pearls of wisdom to add to this comedy rosary?

Everyone secretly wants you to dazzle them. So share your shine, baby!

The FOC It Up! (Femmes of Colour) Comedy Club – hosted by Kemah Bob

Siân Docksey: Hey Kemah! It’s nearly Pisces season… how are you? Are you worried? I’m worried. 

Kemah Bob: I’m a Pisces born on March 20, the first day of spring. I like to think of this as a time for growth and prosperity, but I usually end up anxious about whether or not I’m ageing gracefully. 

You run FOC It Up! Comedy Club to champion the perspectives of female and non-binary performers of colour in comedy. Is there anything else that makes it different from a regular comedy night? 

I think the thing that makes the Femmes of Colour Comedy Club special, besides centering the perspectives of people who identify as femme of center, is our audience. The “diversity” of an audience is just as important as who’s on stage. As a performer of colour, my FOC buddies are a dream. It feels like a party. 

I sometimes worry that if I brand a night as “queer”, people will expect me to always be really politically on-point – when truthfully at the moment I have a lot of Basic Man Energy, my ideology is “sweaty and tired”, and if I had my way I’d spend all my time getting fancy manicures and cruising for babes. Anyway. Do you ever feel pigeon-holed by people expecting you to deliver a particular political perspective? 

I feel pretty free at FOC IT UP. Sometimes too free to be honest. I say some weird shit. But it’s important to me that racism, homophobia, transphobia and any other isms/phobias aren’t a part of the show. I like knowing we’ll be held accountable for what we have to say. Whether we feel it’s wrong or not is then up to us to decide.

What could the LGBTQ scene in London (especially the comedy scene, but also more generally) do better for performers and people of colour?

I’ve been here for two years, so I’m no expert – but I think the scene needs to ask itself if it truly cares about inclusion. I’ve been thinking a lot about equity vs. equality, and how people can go about providing space for new performers, actively working to booking performers of colour and changing the face of their audience. I don’t have the answers. But the questions seem like a cool place to start. 

You Can’t Blame A Girl For Trying – created by Emily Pope

Siân Docksey: Hey Emily! Tell us about your new night You Can’t Blame a Girl for Trying. What made you launch it and what kind of acts do you platform?

Emily Pope: YCBAGFT is an experimental comedy night. I’m interested in the darker side of comedy, particularly within satire and parody. Each night has a loose theme for example; the pros and cons of self-deprecation following Hannah Gadsby’s takedown of that mode of delivery, or rich people lying about being poor. 

I am interested in the cross over between performance in fine art and stand up comedy, so I wanted to start a night which addressed this cross over. 

I’m an artist and have been making a sitcom for the last couple of years which in part subverts the idea of what it means to be a ‘funny womxn’ . I also see a lack – in the comedy scene – of LGBTQI+ or working class or POC performers (which is not exactly news but comedy is particularly bad) and want to address that in terms of who I book. 

What do you think audiences get from your show that they wouldn’t find at a more mainstream gig? 

Complex comedy addressing social and political issues, and artists using comedy in performance. 

What’s the most surprising thing an act has brought to the night? 

A drawing of Alan Shearer.

I used to run a comedy night where the only thing the stand-ups had in common was their star sign. In your opinion, would that count as a ‘queer night’?

No. 

OK cool. Which comedy-slash-performance-slash-artist(s) are you most excited about, currently? 

Kevin Le Grand, Liv Fontaine, Georgia Lucas-Going, and Saba Husain. 

Crack-Up Comedy – Charlie George

Siân Docksey: What’s up, Charlie! What made you start Crack-Up Comedy Cabaret?

Charlie George: Hi! I started Crack-Up Comedy Cabaret because I really wanted to run a night that was specially curated and a bit of an antidote to the long drawn out nights of the open mic. I also really, really wanted to run a night that raised money for Mental Health services, as my friend died by suicide and I’ve also struggled a lot with my mental health in my life throughout the stresses of leaving home early due to my sexuality, being suppressed in a religious household and the ensuing instability of relative poverty and homelessness in my early teens etc. If it wasn’t for the brilliant work mental health services do to support people, I don’t think I’d still be here! So I really want to support them to help others.

Our night is a select bill of a maximum of 10 acts that we’ve seen live be funny. They are eclectic so a mix of stand-up, musical comedy, sketch, physical comedy and comedic drag acts, and placed in an order so that you’re always experiencing something a bit different.

We loosely theme the night on mental health and host dressed in scrubs and poke fun at ourselves and what it is to manage your mental health in the modern world.

Do you think there’s a different vibe at a night that’s explicitly queer and in a gay pub from other gigs you do?

I’d like to think we could’ve gone anywhere because with our line-ups we focus on funny quality acts with diversity as a given. We feature trans, non-binary performers and drag acts so of course, we will attract supporters from the LGBTQI community and allies, and in a sad reality this is probably still more welcomed and celebrated in a queer space like The Glory than anywhere else. Also, let’s face it queer/gay friendly venues are definitely better at flamboyance and shouting out their love and admiration of difference. That’s why we love them!

You host Crack-Up Comedy as part of a double act, but otherwise mostly do solo stuff. Does that make it a completely different experience onstage?

Yes! Very different. But I love it. I come from a more collaborative background in circus and dance performance, so I really enjoy bouncing off another person, sometimes I feel proper lonely and weird practicing my stand-up into my hairbrush at home so it’s super fun to practice skits with Jen and then share them with others, we love mucking about with stethoscopes and pretending we are terrible healthcare professionals!

And finally, speaking of terrible healthcare professionals: My mum has described my stand-up comedy as “an elaborate form of self-harm” (some disagree with the word “self” which I think is unfair since I’ve stopped throwing lemons at people, but anyway.) How do you take care of yourself while you’re gigging, writing and working? 

Charlie/aka Charles three rules for self -are/not going mental doing comedy:

1. Do not compare yourself to others, just do you. And don’t listen to everybody’s two cents on your work, instead have a few trusted champions and critics you go to in private. 

2. Have a code word for shutting off comedy chat/comedy spilling into your personal life (mine is Martin Clunes – in reference to Matt Lucas and David Walliams problematic sketch as two Japanese girls, essentially you’ve gone too far now STOP) 

3. Switch off your phone. Put on your favourite socks. (mine have dinosaurs on) Dance to power songs and celebrate just being alive. 

Permitted Fruit with headliner LOU SANDERS launches at The Apple Tree, Clerkenwell on March 3rd at 7pm. For tickets and more information click here!