Ben Keenan meets the wonderfully funny comic Rachel Parris, a gifted singer and all round funny gal.
Continued from Ben’s look at some of the most influential females in comedy past and present, he talks to Rachel about International Women’s Day, her take on the topic and much, much more…
When did you first realise you wanted to make people laugh?
“Pretty much when I did my first gig. I hadn’t really thought about it til then! My ambition was always to be on the West End, but in Les Misérables, not the Comedy Store! I’d never even thought of comedy as an option; I’d always enjoyed doing funny parts in plays and even the songs I wrote for singer-songwriter type nights seemed to always raise a laugh (unintentionally!) but I’d never thought of doing it for a job until I was 26 and just went for it as yet another thing to try. Then it went well, and I loved it, so I kept going!”
How hard has it been as a female comic for you?
“I just think of myself as a comic really. I think we run the risk of talking about women in comedy as if they’re a different species,that it makes us sound like we’re doing a different genre, or a different job. I’m just a comedian. The language is important.
“There are the same problems in comedy as there are in all entertainment, and in business, sports, and I imagine, deep sea fishing. The expectation of glamour, the idea that one woman in the group ticks the box, the idea, really, that women are wildly different from men. And I don’t think we are, not more different than, say, Billy Connelly and Graham Norton are to each other, or Victoria Wood and Sarah Silverman. It’s moving in the right direction but it can be a pain in the arse while it gets there!”
Are there any clubs or comedy nights that have been particularly supportive to you?
“My favourite clubs to play are Always Be Comedy, hosted by the absolutely hilarious James Gill. He always books a flawless line-up and he’s the best MC I’ve seen. And also Distraction Club which has all different musical comedy acts on – on one night you might see Rich Hall drawling away with his guitar, Jayde Adams singing opera, Faye Treacy playing trombone and Nick Helm rocking out as only he can do, it’s a great night out.”
Who was the first comic you saw that made you think, yes, that’s what I want to do?
“Tim Minchin! He’s absolutely brilliant, and obviously as a piano-playing songwriter and singer, I instantly thought “wow, can I try that?!”. Him, Victoria Wood and Tom Lehrer are some of my comedy heroes.”
What advice would you give to fledgling comics (female and male!)?
“To all comics starting out I would say – don’t try to copy what other people are doing. You have your heroes, we all do, but don’t think that if you do what they’re doing, that’s what’ll make you a success. You’ve got to make yourself laugh first, and others will follow – find your own style. For those of us who are under-represented in comedy, there’s a feeling that you have to speak for your entire gender/religion/race in everything you do. You don’t. Do what you do. It’s all yours.”
Ben meets more of the funniest women in comedy here.