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Tells us about Uncomfortably Numb, your stand-up gig taking place at Soho Theatre?

It is about getting older and what happens when we get older – do we become more like our parents, more right-wing and more middle class? 

Are you becoming more like your mum?

Not like my mum but more like my dad, probably, with all the nasal hair! And the penchant for gambling. 

You also talk about the sexual inequality when it comes to ageing...

It’s about women being under pressure to look 20 years old forever. All this Botox never looks better; we’re losing our humanity. I imagine a dystopian future where babies are injected at birth and women walk around with these baby heads on them. If that’s not scary I don’t know what is!

Are we deluding ourselves into thinking we’re far more progressive than we really are?

Definitely. We think we are, until something happens that makes you think. Being a woman in comedy, it can sometimes be like, “I thought I was in 2013 but actually it’s 1975 again.” 

How does class feature in your show?

It’s about what the working class is credited with. In comedy, as working class you are never gifted with irony or satire, people think you probably just think it’s a fragrance from Calvin Klein. Whereas if you are an Oxbridge comedian people will assume you are being ironic, but everything we say is taken at face value. 

Do a lot of people on the comedy scene come from that background?

Definitely Edinburgh-wise. I didn’t realise this whole arts festival existed until my late 20s. Etonians take shows up there and some of the venues are run by old Etonians, too. The opportunities are more accessible if you have a privileged background. 

Have you found this to be the case throughout your career?

I used to have a story in a show about a Cambridge comedian and a pen I have with the Union Jack on. I lent it to them and they gave it back saying, “There’s your racist pen back.” And I said, “How have you anthropomorphised a pen?” There was an assumption that if I had this pen I must be racist.

Do you think Margaret Thatcher should have been given a state funeral?

Absolutely not. The front page of The Daily Mail said, “The woman who saved our country.” She didn’t – she ruined our country. The destruction of the unions, the miners. I am all for funerals being more like weddings with more balance. Where they have a bride and groom, at funerals you should have for and against! We should be realistic about who she was. 

What made you decide to go from acting into stand-up?

I started writing due to a lack of roles as an actor – you’re always waiting for the phone to ring. The beautiful thing about stand-up is you can have an idea in the morning and perform it on stage that evening. The instant gratification is amazing. 

How did you get a role in Stewart Lee’s 2006 production of Eric Bogosian’s 1987 play Talk Radio?

That was my first role in Edinburgh. Stewart was directing, Tony Law was in it, so too Phil Nichol and Mike McShane. The only thing was that we performed it in a giant upside down purple cow. Quite often, usually when I was doing my monologue, you’d be guaranteed a samba band would go past. To this day I still have not seen [Oliver Stone’s 1988] movie [version], as I didn’t want my performance to be influenced. 

Is this an approach you carry into your stand-up work?

I am very about keeping my thoughts clear. Someone was saying the other day when we were talking about the Philpotts, “You should read Grace Dent’s column [in The Independent]”. And I said, “Not while I am writing this.” I don’t want it muddied by another’s opinion. 

What’s been your best on-stage moment?

I had this show last November for Stand Up To Sexism and it was fantastic. I did my set and at the end did a little bit about what it’s like to be a woman in comedy. I prefixed it with “I don’t know if you want to hear this…” I was just honest about what it’s like being a woman in a job that doesn’t have many. People, equally as much men and women, got up and applauded. For me, in that moment, it felt, “This is my audience and my voice.” It was amazing.

Tiffany Stevenson. Uncomfortably Numb. April 17-20. £10. Soho Theatre,  21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE  

www.sohotheatre.com Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road


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Interview with Tiffany Stevenson: The stand-up comedian on what it’s like being a woman in a male- dominated profession, Margaret Thatcher and ‘racist’ pens
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