Rachel Baker was one of the 10 brilliant comedians who made it through to the 2023 Grand Final of the Funny Women Stage Award. Currently working on a BBC radio play commission about OCD, Baker is a stand-up, writer and actor. We spoke to her about the Birmingham comedy scene, supportive fellow funny women and controlled chaos.
How did you get into stand-up?
I haven’t really doubted it was what I wanted to do since I was very young and watching comedies such as Dinnerladies, The Royle Family and Absolutely Fabulous. I was introduced to performing stand-up at university, then in 2022 I decided to try it out on the Birmingham circuit properly. I went to a local new material night I heard was friendly and built up from there. I live laugh love it.
What was it like being a finalist in the 2023 Funny Women Awards?
I was so blooming nervous, but actually getting to stand up there, with Jo Brand bringing me on, I thought I might as well try and have the best time – and I did. It was such a joy, on stage and off. I met a lovely group of new mates and also got some free reusable sanitary pads and a beach towel, which was a bonus because I love a freebie.
Why is Funny Women important to you?
It can be an intimidating environment starting out in comedy, but from the first time I entered this competition I met a host of other brilliant comics who were welcoming and supportive. It was such a lovely environment backstage, and that’s down to the supportive culture Funny Women have cultivated. Also, just looking at the host of comics who have been involved with Funny Women was a great inspiration in looking ahead to a career in comedy.
Tell us about your comedy style.
I have ADHD; I can’t ignore that in any other part of my life and I don’t in my stand up either. So I’m a bit chaotic but in a controlled way. I know the jokes I’m going to tell – I just might take a diversion on the way. I was told early on by a comic I look up to that I have a unique method of delivery and not to get rid of that; instead lean into it, being my authentic self on stage.
What’s next for you?
I recently worked on a community podcast, Bathcasts, with Moseley Road Baths, an arts venue and Victorian bathhouse. I interviewed six guests who are all linked to the baths in different ways. I got to work with such a lovely team and a load of poets and musicians, it combined my love for community arts with comedy and really was the perfect commission. What’s next is trying to better my craft, gig a bit more in other cities and work on my first half hour, for the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe. In terms of future goals, I want to create a night at a comedy venue for working-class stand ups. I think it’s hard being a working class person in the arts and/or comedy, especially with the cost of living crisis. The plan is to get working-class talent in front of industry figures, in the hope it might bring more opportunities for the acts.
Who are your favourite Funny Women?
It would have to be Janice Connolly and Jo Enwright as they are such brilliant women to look up to on the Birmingham comedy scene and I love their comedy acting, community approach – and of course their stand up. You never fail to have an absolute laugh watching them, they’re brilliant.
What do you love about stand up?
I like doing a lot of interaction with the audience and occasionally you’ll have a wonderful interaction that can’t be replicated anywhere else – a great shared moment between act and audience. For example, I asked a woman in Leicester what she had done with her day and she said: “I had laser hair removal on my arse crack”. I just love that we all got to learn about that collectively.
Images by Steve Ullathorne: www.steveullathorne.com