People often get confused when I say I’m a comedian, but that I don’t do stand-up. Strangely enough I find the idea of doing stand-up absolutely terrifying! Why? Because I immediately assume that being ‘me’ on stage and telling anecdotes about my life will bore people to tears. I can be socially awkward and quite shy which sometimes surprises people. I’ve been completely deaf in my left ear since birth so conversations in large groups or in noisy bars can be really difficult and I spend most of the night either shouting ‘what?’, accidentally ignoring people (who then assume I’m being aloof), or giving up and just observing people instead. And this is what led me to create ridiculous people and become a ‘character comedian’.
My deafness made me very good at studying people and lip reading from a young age. Mannerisms, facial expressions, tiny little ticks or habits – I was absorbing them all, trying to read people and work out what they were saying. I became obsessed with accents and turns of phrase. So when I discovered drama lessons at school, I found my calling and I absolutely loved becoming different people. I was a shy child but when I was on stage I became confident and cheeky. Taking on another persona gave me licence to do and say things I wouldn’t normally dream of in real life. It still does today.
Years later when I became a comedian, my shows became filled with characters built on a mish-mash of careful studies of real people, which is why so many people come up to me after shows and say how much my creations remind them of people they know. I take real life people and then exaggerate their mannerisms and put them in extreme situations to make them funny. Like Georgina the Bride, who ended up with her own show in which the audience became guests at the wedding from hell, called It’s Got to be Perfect. Even Mrs Pippa Bryce D’Souza, the character I play in Channel 4’s Lee and Dean is a mixture of posh women I’ve met – but I also gave her a vulnerable side, to make her real.
With my new show Bitchelors, I wanted to give the audience a role so that they could become active participants and feel important. So I set it at a spoof Woman of the Year awards, making each character a contestant, and one a host. The audience become the judges as soon as they walk in the door. They must listen to the four women fight to get their vote – in quite extreme ways.
For me it’s important that the audience have some power and get a show that is unique only to them. So I decided to let them decide how the show ends. They vote for a winner, and I then come back on as that winner to do a dramatic final speech to close the show. And this means I never know how the show is going to end. We filmed four Oscar style split screen videos with the winner’s joy and the losers’ despair. My technician on the day will respond to the reaction of the crowd (clapping/cheering for the winner) and choose the video that matches that night’s chosen Woman of the Year. Each ending is completely different depending on who they pick. At my Soho Theatre run in London recently we had a different winner each night, which kept me on my toes.
That’s enough from me. I’ll let the five characters in Bitchelors take over and tell you about their role and why they should win your vote:
The Host: Georgina Francis, Britain’s Biggest Bridezilla
Last year I won The Woman of the Year award for my charity, Bride Aid. While planning my multi-million pound intimate wedding in Edinburgh Castle, I discovered that many women in this country get married in the most horrific conditions: in registry offices, in public houses (“pubs”), in nasty dresses from ‘Monsoon’. Some have frozen beige buffet food, a mobile ‘discotheque’ and in extreme cases, their idea of something ‘blue’ is a bottle of WKD. I created Bride Aid to put a stop to these austerity weddings. At the awards I’ll be singing my new charity single Bride Aid. Good luck to the contestants (I doubt any will be as good as me).
Contestant 1: Nina Gordon, Mumtrepreneur
Can you have it all? Yes, you can – I have! I have my own business, I’ve never had cystitis and I’ve got three or four children. I’ve been nominated for my business, BabyFit: the gym in which you use your own children as weights to work out with. I was fat until I started weight-lifting with my twins, Steve and Jobs. I fattened them up with my meals to increase the weight resistance and lost six stone! I’ll be showing you a BabyFit demo and teaching you how to become a successful businesswoman (even if you are a man). Contestant 2: Jane Dough, Domestic Goddess
I really shouldn’t have been nominated. I’m not an interesting woman! Even my own mother used to say ‘Jane Dough you’re like a spleen. If we lost you it would make no difference to our lives whatsoever’. I run a bakery called Cake Me Happy. I believe the right cake can fix any mood. People ask what my secret ingredient is and I say ‘it’s the tears. The tears falling one by one into the cake mix.’ I’ll be handing out some brownies during the awards.
Contestant 3: Keva O’Leary, Foreign Correspondent
I’ve been nominated for using my very own Weapons of Mass Distraction to get exclusive stories and meet some of the biggest DickTators in the world. Not a lot of people know it was actually me who found Osama Bin Laden. I disguised myself as an Avon Lady and went door to door in Pakistan for months until his wife let me in because she wanted some waterproof mascara. As usual, men (some Marines) took the credit.
Contestant 4: Alexi Steele, The Single Women’s Activist
I am part of an anti-marriage group called The Bitchelors, fighting for the rights of single women all over the world. I’ll be teaching the judges how to fight against marriage by occupying weddings (pitch tents outside, set fire to the wedding dress, put razors in the confetti etc.) and I’m prepared to remove my own ring finger with a knife to prove how much I hate the idea of EVER getting engaged. Any married couples in the audience should be VERY scared.
Come along to meet Georgina, Nina, Jane, Keva and Alexi and choose your winner – and how the show ends. May the best woman win.
To meet the host and contestants, go to YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm7NavwmQZI Anna Morris’ Bitchelors will be at The Stand in Edinburgh on 24 April and The Stand in Glasgow on 25 April. For tickets go to www.thestand.co.uk