This coming Sunday FemFringe are taking over the Vaults Festival for a night of women* led comedy, showcasing some of the freshest female funniness on offer. The night will feature Belly Laughs, Femmes of Colour, Witt n’ Camp among others. We were lucky enough for chat to Sian from Belly Laughs about what to expect and what comedy means in 2019.
Where does the name Belly Laughs come from and what does it mean to you?
I don’t know really, we’re a comedy night to make people laugh so it seemed like a fitting name. It’s at a pub called the Five Bells so a joke in the title is even better – it just says what it does in the tin!
How did you get started in comedy?
I ran the comedy society at Goldsmiths and started performing there at open-mic nights. I was reading out all these monologues and it kind of morphed into stand-up and then I’ve been gigging ever since.
What keeps you doing comedy in 2019?
Partly, I like the attention! I think that comedy can say things that maybe other art forms can’t. It sits in a nice sweet spot between theatre and performance and cabaret and it’s its own weird little space, which is really exciting. It means you can kind of do everything and get away with lots of different things and say things on stage that you wouldn’t ever be able to say in real life to a real person!
Do you think comedy is particularly important right now?
Yeah, definitely. Especially in terms of women in comedy and what’s happening in the world at the moment and how we can talk about things on stage that men perhaps can’t. Whenever I watch a female comedian that I really love, what I enjoy about is that they’re saying something that’s really funny but also truthful to me even if it’s just talking about their period. It’s just nice to have my own experience reflected on the stage.
What do you think is special about women in comedy, is it being relatable?
Yeah and also, if you think about it in terms of history, women weren’t even allowed to be on stage at some points in history and I think that now women can get up on a stage in front of thousands of people and make them all laugh, that’s so incredibly powerful. And a nice fuck-you to Shakespeare!
Who would you say are some of your comedy heroes?
I love Sara Pascoe, I love and kind of grew up on Bridget Christie – she won the Edinburgh Award when I first started really getting into stand-up. I also like Lucy Pearman.
What are your thoughts on the term ‘comedienne’?
I don’t really think we need it; we already have a word! I feel the same about actor and actress, I don’t really like it.
What’s exciting you about the London comedy scene?
I think just because there’s so much going on everywhere. Also there’s a nice subculture bubbling away of really alternative comedy nights, especially in the South-East. There’s all these secret hideaways in pubs that you find and they’re this weird magic ball of energy- it’s so exciting when you find one! I don’t any other parts of the city that have quite the same kind of subculture. There’s loads of nights and we’re all within about half an hour of each other and we’re all making weird stuff.
What does 2019 hold for Belly Laughs?
Keep striving to have diverse line-ups in both gender and race, but also in terms of the kind of acts we’re showing. Also grow our audience and show people that comedy isn’t necessarily what people think it is – I think a lot of the time people think that it’s like Live at the Apollo and then they come to Belly Laughs and it’s someone being wheeled on stage in a suitcase! Challenging what we think comedy is.
Catch Belly Laughs at the FemFringe Vaults Festival Takeover this Sunday at 9.10pm, more info here.
Questions written by Lowri Ellcock and Laura Aiton.