Written by Hannah Dunleavy


Backstage natter

On Monday night, nine of the country’s best stand-ups appeared at Standard Issue Stands Up For Comic Relief. Hannah Dunleavy had a chat with them backstage. When she could get a word in edgeways. First up, she spoke to Sara Pascoe, Zoe Lyons and Katherine Ryan.

Standard Issue Stands Up For Comic Relief line-up

Standups, standing up: (from left) Jo Caulfield, Susan Calman, Sarah Millican, Zoe Lyons, Jess Fostekew, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, Holly Walsh and Jo Brand. All photos by Debbie Toksvig.

Is it nice to be at a gig with so many other women on the bill?

Zoe Lyons: Well…

Sara Pascoe: *laughs* No, I like to be the only one; I like to think I’m special.

ZL: Actually, I’ve been really looking forward to it.

Katherine Ryan: Yeah, and that’s not a woman thing, it’s a like-minded friends thing. Sarah [Millican] has asked a lot of people to this; people I love and admire.

Have you all worked together before?

SP: I’ve been on with everyone on the bill before. The first time I worked with Zoe was a Funny Women gig. You emceed my heat. You seemed like a megastar to me. It was you and Shappi Khorsandi and I’d never been in a line-up with those sort of names before. I was, “Oh my god.” The semi-final was next door to here.

Zoe Lyons onstageZL: At Madame Jojo’s, the strip club.

KR: A strip club?

SP and ZL: Yeah…

SP: That was 2007.

ZL: Well, I hadn’t even been going that long then.

KR: I was in it the next year. With my daughter. She was 21 days old and I had her on my breast and everyone was saying, “Why are you doing this?”

ZL: I’ve agreed to compere one of the days at Latitude this year. And that’s the longest gig in the world. And tent gigs are never easy; you get all the noise seepage.

SP: I just play a laughter track in my head now.

ZL: Were you there the year Janeane Garofalo did it and there was a big band playing in the background? It was quite a quick death at least.

SP: And at least we know about that stuff now. I know I’m going to be talking as 2,000 people leave. If you’re mentally prepared you can get through it.

ZL: The first festival gig I ever did was Guilfest.

KR: What is that?

ZL: It’s for people who used to go to festivals and now can’t bear to be more than four miles away from a Waitrose.

Jess Fostekew arrives in the room having come off stage and the chat changes to her pregnancy material and then, quite quickly, the menopause.

SP: You know what my doctor said to me about the menopause? He said imagine velvet turning to paper.

KR: What?

SP: So it’s 10 or 15 years away but now that’s all I’m going to think about.

KR: Things might change by then.

SP: Yeah, I’m going to get a donor vagina.

Katherine Ryan and Sara PascoeOK, so while we’re on that, how conscious are you when picking your material based on the room you’re in?

SP: Well boys never say, “I guess half the room doesn’t have a penis; I guess I shouldn’t talk about my penis.” All stand-up is authored; it’s a very subjective world view. I can’t help but have a female perspective. And some people say you’ve flagged it up, but I think, “Come on, that was in your head.”

ZL: That’s like when I’m asked what it’s like to be a lesbian comedian. I have no idea.

SP: I know a couple of male comedians who are non-white and I think they understand what it’s like to be a female comedian. They also get told, “You don’t have to bang on about it.”

Are things improving, though?

KR, ZL and SP: Yes.

ZL: I find I get more comments from women saying, “I don’t usually find women funny” than from guys. I think, what the hell, how dull are your evenings out?

SP: It used to happen to me a lot, but it hasn’t happened for about five years, which must mean I’m back in the category of women they don’t find funny.

KR: It’s a particularly type of garbage person who says things like that. Even the men they find funny are…you know.

Is there anyone you were especially excited to see tonight?

ZL: Jo Brand. She was a particular hero of mine.

SP: When I first met her it was in a make-up room and I was quoting Through the Cakehole at her because me and my sister had just watched it so much. It made us want to get our period. Just so we could sit on people’s white sofas. At the time, I didn’t realise what a pro-feminist influence that had been on us.

Sara PascoeAs if by magic, on the PA system in the dressing room, Susan Calmans voice announces: Please welcome to the stage, Jo Brand.

Shall we call it a day?

KR, ZL, SP: Yes.

Read more backstage natter from the Standard Issue gig on Monday and Tuesday.

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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.