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Irish comic Aisling Bea on notions, her love of Avicii and being a funny woman

We talked to the comedian about comedy, notions and her love of Avicii.

Bristol Comedy Garden sign leaves me blushing. Thanks to everyone who came out... So to speak. weemissbea weemissbea

IT’S A THURSDAY evening when I meet comedian Aisling Bea in the arrivals area of Dublin Airport. She’s in Dublin for a flying visit and is set to jet off to Los Angeles in a few days for a fortnight of meetings and gigs.

Yes, it’s safe to say that it’s all go for the comedian and actress, who has enjoyed a meteoric ascent up the comedy ladder over the past three years.

From landing plum roles in sitcoms like Trollied and Delivery Man to racking up appearances on the likes of QI and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown to winning Best Female TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards earlier this year, Bea is one of the most in-demand comedians on the circuit.

Despite all this, however, Bea has no notions about herself. In fact, she’s the kind of person you can easily imagine yourself being friends with.

Over the course of our interview, she offers me tips on what make-up is best for troublesome skin (“Bare Minerals, that’s what you should be using”), complains about having to wash her fringe in the sink every morning (“It’s a total pain in the hoop”) and pokes fun at her inability to drive.

Total gal chats, in other words.

Flaming gala. #Repost @leighkillerkilby Aisling at the 02 for the second time. No biggie! Suki got a shout out! Holla! weemissbea weemissbea

Bea has been performing stand-up for about three years and says that it’s “a good time to be a woman in comedy”.

A few days ago, comedian Trevor Noah stated that he felt women were “more powerful than men in comedy right now” and cited examples like Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I ask Bea whether she agrees with Noah’s assessment.

It’s one of those things where it’s an odd thing to say and on the one hand, you can understand why he’s saying it. But it’s basically like saying, ‘Oh my God, it’s such a great time to be a really dark skinned black person.’ You’re basically saying, ‘They seem to be everywhere right now.’ And the undertone of it is, ‘They’re everywhere now, which is a giant surprise because they haven’t been for much of the world’s history.’

Last night I drank Guinness and laughed at people. @weemissbea #aislingbea #thegoodship #kilburn #comedy #london kellymareeah kellymareeah

She believes that the “lads humour” that was so prevalent in the 1990s has been replaced by a more inclusive type of comedy, but still doesn’t agree that there’s enough of a gender balance in sitcoms — it’s either female-led shows like The Mindy Project or nothing.

I might not want my own show. I might want to be in a show where it’s a balance of genders.
Bea, who is currently developing a script of her own for Sharon Horgan’s production company, cites Veep as the type of ensemble comedy she would like to star in and laments the lack of balanced sitcoms currently on the air.
Friends was fairly balanced — as in they all stood there in their own stead. It was a balance of men and women. I don’t know what’s happened since then or why they didn’t build on that.

Backstage at the comedy gala the other week with my beloved JOKES top that I washed & it fell apart weemissbea weemissbea

As for stand-up? Bea loves it. In particular the fact that it enables people to let themselves go and not be self-conscious.

I love that comedy makes people ugly. No-one looks better laughing. But if you can let people allow themselves to be ugly at a gig, where they laugh and don’t look at themselves and stop being self-conscious, that’s the best thing in the world.

Like any job, though, it has its drawbacks — the late nights, the isolation, the travelling.

Does she ever get nervous or anxious? “I’ve been nervous about jobs,” she says. “Doing stand-up, I’m never nervous of the audience. I’m more nervous of the mood I’m in.”

Doing stand-up is like having to be in the mood to go to someone’s birthday party every night of the week and sometimes you’re not in the mood. And that’s when I get nervous.

She then recounts a show during her recent Edinburgh run where she accidentally listened to Alanis Morrissette before going on stage and ended up having a bad show.

I spent the whole day listening to Alanis Morrissette, totally by accident. I just rediscovered her and was like, ‘Oh my God, she just knows how I feel.’ And I just listened to too much. So I went on stage with Alanis vibes and it was such a sad show. And I could feel the audience feeling sad for me.

giphy (12) justkeepyourselfalive / Tumblr justkeepyourselfalive / Tumblr / Tumblr

But she learned her lesson and subsequently avoided Jagged Little Pill.

The next day I had Avicii as my opening music. Shite German pop. That’s what you have to listen to.

(At this point, it is worth noting that Bea has a non-ironic fondness for crap pop music. In the taxi from the airport, she had a little head bop to What Do You Mean? by Justin Bieber and made no apologies for it. It is a banger in fairness.)

British Comedy Awards 2014 - London Doug Peters Doug Peters

Bea, who studied in Trinity College, has lived in London for years now and considers it home. “London is my home,” she says. “Ireland is where I’m from, but London is my home.”

Despite this, she is still very much in touch with her Irish roots.

Earlier this year, she rounded up several of her comedian pals to make a video urging Irish people to vote Yes in the marriage referendum. And last year, she organised The Big Dishgo, a fundraiser for The London Irish Centre, which raised £10,000.

That was one of the best nights ever. That was one of the proudest things I’ve ever done. Myself, Abandoman and David O’Doherty did it. We had a disco followed by the anthem at the end.

Like all ex-pats, however, she does admit that she finds Dublin more expensive than London, particularly for food and drink.

It’s ridiculous. Little things like you can’t just have a vodka with a mixer. You have to buy a bottle. 

We feel you, girl.

War Child Comedy Night - London Empics Entertainment Empics Entertainment

As she finishes off her pot of tea, I ask Bea how she has successfully avoided developing “notions” about herself. After all, it would be understandable if she had, considering all she has achieved over the past couple of years.

She attributes it to things not happening quickly for her.

I’ve done all the jobs. I’ve failed loads. I’ve done maybe 15 pilots for TV shows that never saw the light of day. If you start thinking, “That’s right, guys. I’m going to spend my money now!” then you’re a fecking eejit.
In two years time, no-one might want to talk to you again. So why would you presume?

Solid advice for us all.

Aisling Bea performs at the Galway Comedy Festival on October 24th and 25th. For more information on upcoming gigs, visit her website.

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