“I used to get in trouble at Bible study because I’d take advertising slogans and merge them with Jehovah’s Witness imagery”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE VIA @CHARLIEGEORGECOMEDY
I first encountered the hilarity of Charlie George at a comedy club hosted by Holly Stars in London’s West End in 2021. The first bit of live entertainment I’d enjoyed post-lockdown, Charlie was billed alongside drag artists Kate Butch, Glew and Indy Nile, Flo & Joan and Mary O’Connell – and what a discovery I made. Joking about everything from growing up queer in Swindon with a Jehovah’s Witness mother – yes, you read that correctly – to navigating her first kiss at a foam party in the mid-2000s, Charlie stood out as a comic that wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself and would do it in an outspokenly honest yet nerdy way.
An award-winning name on the scene, Charlie received LGBTQ New Comedian of the Year in 2019, was crowned the So You Think You’re Funny & Funny Women Awards runner up in 2019 and made it to the final of the Leicester Square New Comedian Award and Pride’s Got Talent in 2018. She’s performed on BBC Asian Network Live and the BBC’s No Country For Young Women podcast, and has written for 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Have I Got News For You, Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order and more.
Clandestina – penned alongside Victoria Olsina – shows monthly in London, inviting a rotation of queer talent that’s sure to bring gay chaos to the streets of England’s capital. Interested? Grab your tickets here.
DIVA: You’re at Edinburgh Fringe – congratulations! Could you tell me a little bit about Clandestina?
I think compilation shows are really fun. The pressure’s not fully on you – you can kind of work on your craft but there’s also other comedians on, and then there’s a nice range for everybody to watch. Every now and then we will have a wild card token dude, but normally we have women and non-binary acts and that’s what’s special about it. It’s a nice space for queer-focused comedy.
It’s really tough to go to the Fringe. I didn’t get a spot in this other compilation show where they pay for you to go, and I’d already done a working-class showcase where again, it’s crowdfunded. Victoria and I decided to join forces because the Fringe is not that accessible. It’s like £400 to go to the programme and the accommodation is thousands of pounds.
We kind of wanted to have a space that felt like it was for everyone. For the best of the queer comedy, but also the freaks and the weirdos and the brilliant ones that we want to celebrate.
DIVA: What inspired you to start performing comedy?
I started in 2018 and I signed with my agent in 2019, so I had a very short, sharp beginning in comedy. But looking back, I think I always did know that I was that type of person. I talk a lot about growing up Jehovah’s Witness on stage, but I do remember getting in trouble at Bible study a lot because I used to take advertising slogans from the telly or other magazines and merge them with the Jehovah’s Witnesses imagery they were using to talk about the apocalypse or to recruit people. There’ll be like a whole family smiling and then behind them everything’s on fire and burning and apocalyptic – it’s quite dark humour, really. As a career, I came a bit later when there was already more women out in the clubs, paving the way because I hadn’t really seen it as a legitimate career up until that point.
DIVA: You’ve spoken about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and being queer. How do these experiences inform your work?
I find it quite cathartic and empowering to laugh about it. I did a course, and I structured a lot into jokes – there was stuff about knocking on the door of someone you fancy at school and having a massive crush on a girl who I’d had sleepovers with and we’d hung out at the back of the bus and then the door opens and I’ve got to sell her Jesus. And my mum’s there and I just don’t want anyone at school to know. My sister and I used to play a game to see who would get the racist house – we’d have to sell the story with our white mother behind us and these two mixed-race girls dressed like 1950s housewives. I used to make jokes about how we looked like we were servants, and my mum was our white master, or I used to pretend to get trafficked.
DIVA: Is it important to you to channel your identity as an LGBTQI person into your work?
It’s inherent – you can’t not really. When I first started there was a lot of “oh queer people, their whole act is talking about their sexuality” and I was like, well hang on a minute, as if men haven’t been talking about their wives onstage for decades. Relationships are a huge part of our lives so we’re going to talk about them.
I was a Jehovah’s Witness and people were already like “oh my god that freak knocks on our door at the weekends”, and I had long hair and I was brown, and there were all these other layers, so it was not hugely possible for me to be out. Sharing this is much more relatable than we think. You’ll always find someone in an audience who’ll be like “oh my god I feel the same, I told my lesbian friends that I’m dating this guy because I’m bi and now they all hate me.”
DIVA: You’ve been playing with your autism diagnosis more in your work – how do you incorporate that experience?
I’m on the autistic spectrum and so many creatives are – our brain works really well for this type of stuff. It’s kind of inevitable now that I unmask that I include it in my content. I realised I was having these blinding headaches and sensory processing issues at clubs, and I was finding it really overwhelming under the lights and having physical symptoms. I always have headphones or ear defenders on to cope with the sensory overload so that I can go onstage and do my job well. I want to deal with accessibility issues and make that space accessible for the way that my brain works, and I’m hoping to be educational.
Want to keep up with Charlie? Visit her website here.
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