Laura Lexx is an award-winning comedian and writer. She won Best MC in the 2017 UK Comedy Awards and was nominated as Best Compere in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Chortle Comedy Awards.
Often described as a ‘chirpy’ comedian, Laura Lexx certainly possesses an upbeat personality but it became clear as I chatted with her recently that we shouldn’t be quick to judge on outward appearances. Laura reveals that times have been anything but chirpy of late. She’s had a breakdown and, for much of 2017, Laura was trying unsuccessfully for a baby. With her show ‘Trying’ at this year’s Fringe she explains that she’s done trying now; it’s time to laugh.
Laura, it’s fair to say 2017 wasn’t a good year for you, is your latest show a form of therapy?
I’ve had quite a lot of actual therapy so I wouldn’t call this therapy. It’s more me coming out the other side of therapy and saying ‘Do you know what? It’d be lovely if it wasn’t awkward to talk about this sort of stuff.’ I think we live in a really lovely time where in certain pockets of society it is becoming OK to discuss this sort stuff but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily super comfortable yet. I wanted to talk about some tough stuff without losing the joke rate and without giving it a heavy feel. I’m a lively performer, I’m quite fun and colourful. I wanted to be able to transfer that onto something so you almost wouldn’t notice that what we’re talking about is sad.
Is that to make it easier for the audience to digest?
Yeah, I think it’s a nice way of showing that depression, anxiety and difficult stuff happens to even the happiest people you’d meet. There are a lot of things on social media saying mental health can affect anybody. What’s lovely about being able to do a show like this is being able to say ‘I’m one of those people, come and meet me’ so people aren’t seeing these problems as being other people’s. We’re not some weird sub-species to tweet about, we’re here, we’re people you know.
Is your new show going to be an ultimately uplifting show? From the blurb it sounds serious.
I hope so, I hope it’s uplifting. I’ve worked very hard to make sure it’s true to the purest form of stand up as I believe stand up should be. I hope people will be sat there thinking that it’s nice to hear something so different and a subject talked about so candidly without feeling any awkwardness.
Do you find it hard when people expect you to be upbeat because that’s your stage persona?
On stage I’m very comfortable with who I am and the persona I have but I do run away after most shows because I don’t want to disappoint people or be a let down. There’s no way you can live up to the person you’ve just been for an hour. That’s OK, I think it’s alright to perform and then choose whether or not I show you more of me.
Do you think comedians get a harder time than, say, actors or singers in that way?
I’ve noticed a lot when I turn up to corporate gigs they’ll ask if I’m the singer. People really don’t expect me to be the comedy. I think they expect you to barrel into reception shouting jokes the second you walk in. I honestly don’t think that’s what 99% of comics are like. In order to be a comic you’re quite quiet and observational, which makes you see the things you’ll then talk about on stage.
In 2016 there was a viral video of you putting down a heckler for being sexist. Do you still come across sexism a lot or are things changing?
Things are changing but I still come across it a lot. We’re in a strange place at the moment where lots and lots of clubs are booking more and more women. But we’re not at a place of equality yet. 9 times out of 10 I’m the only woman on the bill. When I’m on or off stage someone will make a comment that relates to my gender. The only thing to do in those situations is just continually be good at what you do. Sometimes the behaviour of people – that’s men and women – will change when I’m on stage, they will try and top your punchline without even realising they’re doing it.
Does it still annoy you?
I don’t get annoyed by audience members, I have confidence in my ability as a comic to deal with it well. There’s no malice in it on the part of the person in the audience, they’re just uncomfortable with the situation and how it works. Therefore it’s my job to show them how it works and how to behave next time a female comic is on stage.
Comedy clubs are brutal at times, even for men.
Yes! Sometimes it works in my favour and people don’t expect me to have a vicious tongue. I’ll deliver a put down and they’ll be shocked, saying, ‘Blimey, I wasn’t expecting that!’ You’ve got to know the hand you’ve got and how to play it.
Are Edinburgh audiences less likely to heckle?
Definitely. They’re not likely to heckle in an hour long show. When audiences come and see your solo shows they’ve read the blurb, they’ve got an idea of the environment. You come out after the hour thinking ‘that was lovely’ and then you do a late night show and shout at a load of drunk 18 year olds for 20 minutes. It’s brilliant. It really is the whole gamut in one day. At the solo shows it’s incredible, the audience will give you the time to weave something. They don’t mind if for 10 minutes you’re building the characters and that’s a wonderful trust to get from the audience.
In a club night you certainly don’t have the same time to spend.
God no, you’ve got 20 minutes and the clientele are probably working all week, it’s Saturday night, they’ve got a babysitter, they’ve got a cab into town, spent £15 a head on tickets and £20 on a bottle of wine. I owe it to them to be funny in my set, you don’t want to be a let down for their night out that week. The trust from the audience then is value for money and that means a high joke rate in 20 minutes.
Title: Laura Lexx: Trying Venue: The Turret, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House, 13 Bristo Square. Dates: 3 – 26 August (not 15) Duration: 1 Hour Previews: Great Yorkshire Fringe – 20th July, MAC Birmingham – 26th July and Scallywags, Bristol – 27th July. For more information visit www.lauralexx.co.uk Twitter: @lauralexx