Joy, our online editor, chats with Pravanya from Bristol Improv about ‘Dinner Time’- the all BME comedy night. Featuring a line-up of Bristol students and critically acclaimed guests, it promises to be a treat.
Tired of switching on the TV and seeing wall to wall Russell Howard? Fed up of seeing panel shows full of old white men cracking jokes that, although obviously scripted, weren’t written for you? Angry that BME people often only appear in comedy as the butt of a joke? Well this is the comedy night for you.
So Pravanya, to start, can you tell us a little bit about the show?
Of course! The show’s in two halves. The first half is stand up, and we have such an amazing line up on both nights. I honestly feel so lucky having managed to book these stand ups. The improv half of the show is essentially a full improvised play, where the absolutely excellent cast just get one suggestion from the audience at the beginning and they weave a whole narrative from just that suggestion. There’s usually a format that the cast can stick to. For this show the format is a dinner party. There’ll be one host and everyone else will play guests. The idea is that it’s an exciting character and relationship driven bottleneck style performance.
Bristol Improv recently hosted the Race in Comedy Discussion and Workshop. Were you inspired to organise this show in response to some of the concerns raised at this event?
At the time, the Race in Comedy Discussion definitely felt as though it was a stand-alone event. I faced a lot of difficulty getting it going, so I was just so keen to talk about this issue which I felt had been completely ignored and disregarded. It was a real achievement to just have the discussion. After the event I had so many people come up to me and tell me how great it had been and how it had opened their eyes. Also, it gave people of colour in comedy a space to finally share their experiences and be listened to. The discussion was only the beginning and it showed that there was so much more to do.
As PoC are often unrepresented in the industry, do you hope that your all BME line-up will help to inspire more students to get into comedy?
That is definitely what I hope. The lack of BME representation in comedy is abysmal, and it’s not a case of lack of talent, it’s a case of lack of opportunity. The space is totally dominated by largely white men. It’s impossible to feel like a space belongs to you when you can’t see yourself represented in it. I just want people of colour to be able to visualise themselves on that stage. Race shouldn’t be a barrier to that.
What advice do you have for BME students if they want to start performing comedy?
Honestly it sounds a bit cringe, but just go for it. It’s a space that belongs to everyone. You’re not going to be perfect when you first start, but absolutely no one is. Take advantage of the space so you can learn and improve. That’s a right that everyone has, and it’s a right that, due to the whitewashing of comedy, is denied to people of colour.
Lots of people think of comedy as just Jimmy Carr, some other white guys from ‘Mock the Week’ and maybe a bit of Amy Schumer for those with a transatlantic humour. But who are the funny people we should be watching?
I would say every stand up who’s performing in Dinner Time is amazing. Evelyn Mok, Vera Chok, Athena Kugblenu, Gabriel Ebuele, Michael Odewale and Jamie D’Souza. I’m also a huge fan of Lolly Adefope, Ahir Shah and Bisha K Ali. Also American comedians, would recommend Hasan Minaj and Jessica Williams and the South African comedian Trevor Noah.
Where can I find out more about the show?
The show is called Dinner Time and there is a Facebook event for people to join (see link below). We will be releasing a ticket link on the event page very soon, so click ‘attending’ to stay updated. It’s going to be at The Pegg Theatre in the Bristol SU on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th March.
Collage by Joy Molan