MoodyComedy recently spoke with award-winning comedian Angela Barnes about her latest show, Fortitude…
© Matt Crockett
Hi Angela, what’s on your mind today?
Snow mostly. Brighton is looking very pretty from my living room window, but the bruise on my arse from where I slipped on it yesterday is not appreciating the view.
You’re about to embark on a huge UK tour, are you ready?
As I’ll ever be I think. All I’ve wanted to do since I started doing stand up is to tour my own show to an audience who want to see it. I’m so bloody excited, I just wanna get cracking!
Your comedy often discusses society’s expectations of what we should all be doing at each stage in our lives – what is it about this topic that you are drawn to?
I come from quite an unconventional family, and I’ve never done anything in the right order or at the right time. I was even born far too early, and I’ve done everything arse about face ever since. I’m 41 now, I’m not married, I don’t have children, I don’t have the mortgage, but I can honestly say that I am the most content I have ever been in my life. I just think we all find our own way, and happiness comes from different things for different people… Numbers are mostly arbitrary when it comes to ageing, you know what feels right for you and when. We are lucky enough to live in a society where we have a lot of choice about what we do with our lives and I like to celebrate that.
You’ve become quite a regular on Mock the Week in recent years, has the novelty ever threatened to wear off or do you find it more enjoyable now you’ve had the chance to settle in?
I love doing it now. The first time you do it, you’re like a rabbit in the headlights. You sit on the set, and it looks so familiar, and I found myself just watching it, and then thinking “Oh Christ, you’re not watching telly, you’re on it!”. Now I feel much more relaxed and can actually enjoy myself on the show. It’s a fun team to work with, and Hugh and Dara are brilliant.
What has been your favourite aspect of presenting Radio 4’s Newsjack?
I have such a special place in my heart for Newsjack, because it really is a way into a world that can feel completely impenetrable. When I was just a comedy nerd sat at home listening to Radio 4, I had no idea how I could ever get anything I wrote seen. Then Newsjack came along and gives everybody a chance to have a go at writing comedy. So many new writers have been discovered through the show, it really works. If you consistently submit good stuff, you WILL get noticed. I love how exciting it is for someone to hear their name in the credits for the first time, when I don’t screw up the pronunciation that is!
What do you think your best attributes are as a writer and performer?
Ooh crikey, I’m not very good at self reflection. I think the phrase “down to earth” gets used to describe me a lot. As a comedy performer, you are asking an audience to pay money to sit in a room and listen to you bang on about yourself. When you really think about it, how arrogant is that?! So I think that if your audience is comfortable in your company, that’s half the battle. I’d hate to think I’ve ever been intimidating to anyone, I hope people would think I’m approachable, and that makes you relatable to an audience as a performer. As a writer it’s the same thing. We are communicating an idea to an audience. If you are trying to do it in a way that alienates your audience, by being too complicated, or by making an audience feel small or inferior in some way, you’re going to find it tougher. There are some excellent so-called “high status” comics, but it is a difficult balancing act, and most of us are low-status. I want my audience to come away feeling good about themselves, thinking “I’ve had a good laugh, but thank God my life’s better than hers”!
What would you like people to take away from your new show, Fortitude?
There’s no great message to the show really. I talk quite a lot in it about my decision not to have children, so I suppose the one thing I’d like people to take away is that someone’s decision about their own reproductive life is nobody else’s business. We treat the question “ooh, do you think you’ll have children?” as if it’s small talk, just making conversation. But it isn’t. For some people it’s a very intrusive and upsetting question to be asked. I get fed up of the assumption that I don’t know my own mind, and that I am some sort of child-hating monster. Neither of those things are true. My decision not have children was made with a lot of consideration and is informed by being the person who knows me best! I actually adore babies. Like love them so much. The smell, the feel of their little arms and legs, my womb flips when I see one. But that is not enough for me to change my mind. I think what I need is a puppy. So yeah, if there’s one takeaway, it’s stop asking or judging people about whether or not they procreate. But mostly – I want them to have had a laugh and a fun night out
And lastly, if you had to persuade a stranger, what makes Fortitude worth going to see?
Well, there’s my brilliant support act Phil Jerrod, who properly makes me laugh, so if not for me and my show, come to a tour show for that! To a potential punter I’d say “ I promise there are jokes. Proper ones I’ve bothered to write. Oh, and I think I can confidently say that this show has more stuff on cold war nuclear bunkers than any other comedy show you’ll see this year.”