She’s ready to be her silliest self at the Roundhouse Comedy Festival this August
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY SARAH HARRY-ISAACS
Sophie Duker is everywhere. She’s won Taskmaster. She’s been on Live At The Apollo. She’s sold-out Edinburgh Fringe shows. She’s done 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown. The Last Leg. Mock The Week. You get the picture.
The British stand-up has been a firm fixture on the comedy circuit ever since her debut solo show Venus which led to her nomination for the Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe. Her more recent show Hag has even had to add new dates to accommodate for the sheer amount of support that she’s received.
We sat down with Sophie to get the low-down on her new show Shut Up And Look Cute which will be debuting at the Roundhouse Comedy Festival this August.
How did you get into comedy?
I think for ages I didn’t want to do comedy. I always loved comedy, but I never consciously thought that I wanted to do it when I grew up. But when I was at uni, I became part of an improv troupe which is a very good holding pen for people who lost their virginity late! It was a safe space to be silly, make friends, and try on lots of different hats. That troupe was why I went to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time.
What was your first stand-up show?
My first stand-up gig happened unintentionally when I was living in France and I was really missing comedy. I did one night at a weird Parisian stand-up night that was called Funny, Lonely, Vicious which was run by a lonely and vicious (and sometimes funny) American.
But I really started doing comedy when I left university. I was with my two friends, and we were really bored and wanted to do something that scared us. So we put on this show where I basically spoke for 15 minutes about the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I just kept doing shows like they were a hobby, but it slowly took up more of my free time and weekends.
You’ve described yourself as being a triple minority threat. What’s it like being a queer woman of colour in comedy?
It feels like a really full-circle moment. When I started doing comedy I wasn’t out, but now I’m headlining Bi Pride later this year. Stand-up has been a space where I can be more myself, speak up about things and have some power. Comedy has been the route to accepting myself as a queer woman. I came out to my mum via a comedy show.
While comedy has been historically a very pale, stale, male space, it wasn’t always. Comedy has been punk and working-class. It’s in drag and in the club. It’s such an ever-changing, moldable experience. There are great comics on TikTok. I think the establishment is quite scared of that.
While the comedy industry has its gatekeepers and dragons, and a lot of white men have seized control of its production, by its nature it can open up things for people who are marginalised. Comedy has been everything to me.
What’s been some of the exciting changes you’ve seen in comedy since you started?
In order to succeed in comedy before you had to be a white man in a suit or t-shirt bitching about your ex-girlfriend or wife at home. You had to appeal to a mythological, middle-England, middle-aged bloke in order to be really successful as those would be the people to make your tour blow up. There was one route into comedy.
I think it’s really exciting that there has been a huge furious wave of people who are not necessarily men, not necessarily white or straight, rising up and interacting with comedy on a mainstream level.
The fact that you can do comedy from your phone has also meant that people who wouldn’t feel confident or safe enough on stage can still write jokes and share them with millions of people. The eroding of all these old walls and rules about how someone did comedy is what turns me on about comedy.
What can we expect from your Roundhouse Comedy Festival show this year?
My show is called Shut Up And Look Cute. It’s the silliest approach to a show that I’ve had in years. After two successful shows at the Fringe, I just want to get on stage and be true to what makes me belly laugh. Even though I don’t know what it’s going to be just yet, I know that it’s going to be chaotic, queer, irreverent, and the proto-baby of what my show and tour will be next year.
It’s exciting and notable that it’s not at Edinburgh where there are all the awards and the stakes. There’s no drama, and it’s just going to be fun.
What’s been the best audience reaction you’ve ever had?
My tour Hag was such a personal show to do. Being able to do it all over the country in places where people don’t necessarily have a tribe of people who fully get them meant I got so many messages from people. There was a girl who had worked in one of the venues who was also pansexual and she told me that she’d spent the rest of her evening talking about the show. For me, that girl’s message was this magical moment that made me feel like I was speaking to little Sophie.
You can get your tickets to see Sophie live at the Roundhouse Comedy festival here.
Roundhouse Comedy Festival to run from 5th to 23rd August 2023, more info www.roundhouse.org.uk
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