No More Mr Nice Bi: Queer comedy Q&A

Funny Women

Funny Women

This November freewheeling bisexual disaster Siân Docksey (as seen on BBC 3, BBC New Comedy Award nominee, The Telegraph’s Funniest One-Liners of the Edinburgh Fringe) presents three nights of stand up comedy double bills. This queer comedy party features a delectably different line-up every night, winner of Leicester Square New Comedian 2021 Sam Nicoresti kicks off this trifecta of shows, followed by Comedy Bloomers LGBTQ+ New Comedian of the Year Finalist Carmen Ali, rounded off by 2019 Funny Women Awards finalist Jen Ives! We caught up with Siân and Carmen to talk about queer comedy, sex worker rights and the extravanagza they are putting on at The Glory…

Funny Women: Tell us about No More Mr Nice Bi: Queer Comedy at The Glory. 

SIÂN: I got so fed up with dragging my 100kg pole dancing stage or a suitcase full of octopus props around comedy venues that I decided to go back to stand-up. No More Mr Nice Bi seemed like a fun name for a night so I asked a few comedians who identify as bi, bi-adjacent or “available at the time” if they wanted to team up and try out some stuff. I love The Glory and think they saw our unique potential to encourage audiences to spend money they don’t have on alcohol. It’s basically a three-night queer party in a basement with some polished hours, some new stuff, some gratuitous mucking about, and a bisexual theme that’s very non-committal which therefore makes it all even more bi. 

FW: Can you share a little about all the acts taking part?

SIÂN: I’m saying this completely sincerely: I love every single act taking part and I would go to see every single show. Sam Nicoresti is a surrealist stand-up doing their Edinburgh Fringe show that’s a hilarious, hallucinatory journey through gender, cancel culture, piss, and the human soul. Carmen Ali is such a fearlessly funny political stand-up and I love being on a bill with her because we both do material about stripping – we actually first met in the changing room when we worked at the same club – but our experiences are very different, which I think is really cool and important to show an audience about sex work. And anyone who hasn’t already lost their shit for Jen Ives – like, what are you even doing with your life. She’s a brilliant stand-up who smashed the Fringe with her solo show, and has now rebranded as a Pasta Comedian doing something totally experimental and new.

FW: Siân and Carmen, you both talk about your careers as strippers in your shows. Comedy in the past hasn’t been particularly sex-positive, do you think this is changing? 

CARMEN: I generally find that at mainstream comedy nights, sometimes the audience will get quite uncomfortable when a woman gets onstage and talks openly about sex or sex work. The media sexualizes women so much and profits off this, but when women want to reclaim the narrative for themselves, some people don’t like that. There are countless examples of male comedians talking about sex and sex work, often in a very derogatory way towards women, and the audience lapping it up, but it seems a different story when women do this.

This is why it’s so important to have spaces and events that are sex worker-led – I co-run Sexquisite Events and our audience is a mixture of sex workers and allies and it is a space where we can speak honestly and make jokes about these topics and people get it. We celebrate how multi-talented sex workers are and have a mixture of performances – comedy, burlesque, pole dance, poetry, circus, etc, all by performers who have lived experience of working in the sex industry. 

Sian has performed for Sexquisite before and our audience loved her!

SIÂN: My show talks about stripping but I wouldn’t say it’s sex-positive – more like, aggressively sex-ambivalent. It’s amazing that there are so many high-profile comedians now who’ve talked about sex work (including stripping) in their shows – Desiree Burch, Fern Brady, Sophie Willan for example – because everyone’s experience is different. The more voices we have showing that sex workers are just as complex as any other group of people, the better.

I don’t know if comedy is becoming more or less sex-positive – sex will always come up because the big three universal comedy topics are Death, Shitting, and Shagging. But I fully agree with Carmen that I’m just bored now of straight white men in a black t-shirt making sex workers the butt of a joke. It’s fine that they’re there but, I want the other side of the story. More talentless men should embrace sex-positivity by doing the sexiest thing a man can do which is: not be a stand-up comedian. 

FW: How are you both using comedy to amplify sex worker rights? 

CARMEN: My solo show is all about being a sex worker from the point of view of an actual sex worker. I talk about laws and legislation, the negative parts of sex work, the funny and ridiculous things that sex work involves and try to educate my audience on harm reduction, and how full decriminalisation of sex work would improve safety and decrease stigma. 

I know there are a lot of people who identify as feminist who don’t support this, but it’s so important for them to listen to the experiences of a sex worker and challenge their perceptions which have been misinformed by the Patriarchy. Banning sex work only pushes it further underground. But giving sex workers more respect and rights always improves our lives.

SIÂN: The bits of my show that have been easiest to write are about the really cringy, uncomfortably honest interactions I’ve had with people in strip clubs. I totally fit the “therapist in stockings” stripper stereotype because I have a slightly intense vibe and I’m like a magnet for people with High Dread – and to my despair I ended up really empathising with a lot of customers in the clubs. I think that’s messy and it’s not the biggest political priority at all, but it humanises the work so I want to put it out there. It’s also my actual lived experience so I can’t help but find the bleakly funny side of it. 

I’m trying to write some more material that’s grumbling a bit about Universal Basic Income and decrim but that’s not as funny yet – which is frustrating because sex worker politics are radical, world-changing and amazing! But the point of this run of shows is to try stuff out so, you can come and tell me if it’s rubbish. And if the worst thing is that people pick up better information about sex worker politics along the way then, that’s fine. 

FW: What do you think makes queer comedy? 

CARMEN: I think queer comedy is any comedy made by someone who identifies as queer – is that too simplistic?! Your jokes don’t even need to be about queerness – the fact that you are a queer person existing onstage is what’s important. 

I often feel like I am “not queer enough” – as a femme presenting bisexual cis women who somehow ends up mostly dating cis men, but it’s not for anyone else to gatekeep my queerness. I am a proud bisexual babe no matter who I am dating. 

SIÂN: There is no one universal definition of “queer comedy” but there are some key principles we all agree on. These are:

• If you are well-lit, you’re queer.

• Pickles are funny, but only cats and queer people know why.

• There must be a place at the venue that is the perfect dimensions to store a football. When this is set up, ripples through the earth’s core alert your local friendly lesbian football team that your event is live, and they will come.

• Nobody has managed yet to write the best Harry Styles joke. There is a Harry Styles joke out there that is so perfect, all the queers at NASA and the CERN nuclear research facility are looking for it using the most cutting-edge, subatomic comedy-particle-firing equipment. The queer comedian who writes this joke will be hailed as our new Messiah, and be given a LUSH voucher for fifteen pounds.

FW: Where can we find you after NO MORE MR NICE BI?

SIÂN: In the bar, for as long as people are willing to buy us drinks after the show or the venue ask us to leave. Beyond that, all my live dates are on my website and I’d love you to sign up for my newsletter where I give you all the sweaty updates on how I’m trying to make “pole dancing comedy” a “thing.” www.siandocksey.com 

CARMEN: Follow me on Insta or Twitter @harlotgoddess and Sexquisite @sexquisite.events on insta or @sexquisitevents on Twitter

No More Mr Nice Bi: Queer Comedy at The Glory is on 6th, 8th and 9th November, for tickets and more information click here!

Artwork by Fredde Lanke

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