This Women’s Month, Angel Campey spoke to us about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry – and revealed what it takes to become a comedian.
Tell us more about your brand and style of comedy.
I’m a stand-up comedian, SAFTA-winning TV comedy writer and drive-time radio host on Smile 90.4FM. My comedy is honest and autobiographical. I tackle uncomfortable issues within the South African identity, by framing it in my own personal true-life stories.
How did you become involved in comedy?
My roommate is Siv Ngesi (a well-known presenter/actor/comedian) and when we first moved in together in 2011, he commented that my tweets were funny and I should try stand-up. I casually shrugged it off, but the next day, a comedian named Rustum August called and told me he was booking me for an open mic gig in 3 weeks’ time! I thought it would go badly and everyone would leave me alone. But my first gig, to a sold-out smoky room in Long Street, went so well that the crowd even gave me a (very generous) standing ovation. And the rest is history – or herstory!
What are the challenges and how do you deal with them?
The biggest challenge is the lack of a real industry for comedians in SA, as it’s a relatively new career, compared to the rest of the world. So there aren’t as many clubs, stages and venues to get up on. When I was in New York City, I was able to get up about five times in one night.
There’s also the age-old problem that many performing artists face, of people asking us to work 'for free’ or 'for exposure’, as the legend goes. Because it’s hard to quantify what we do and people don’t appreciate the hours and HOURS of free work we have done in order for us to be good enough to charge. Those 20 minutes you see on stage are the result of years’ worth of grind. Late nights, empty rooms, surviving in the boys’ club.
Do you think the comedy industry has any biases or limitations when it comes to gender?
Nothing too overt. As with most careers, subtle patriarchy does exist, but I find comedians to be very inclusive for the most part, and that extends on to comedy bookers. The sad reality is that women are grossly under-represented in comedy, but that’s due more to society’s expectations of 'funny females’, and how daunting it is for women on the outside to even feel valuable enough to TRY stand-up. Ironically, most women comedians are funnier than they realise, but we live in a world that doesn’t applaud that trait in women. However, in the eight years that I’ve been a working comedian, I’ve noticed a positive shift away from that.
What advantages do you think you, as a female comedian, bring to the table?
We represent the voice of half of the audience. Women have sat there in comedy clubs, listening to male perspectives for 'millennia’, but now it's finally the women’s perspective. It also reminds men that women can (dare I say it) have opinions and be funny too. I’ve had men say to me: "I didn't expect a girl that looks like you to be so intelligent and funny.’ He meant it as a compliment. Shem.
What is your best first-impression joke?
I generally find some kind of self-deprecating humour helps to set the crowd at ease, but you’ll have to come to a show to hear one!
Follow Angel Campey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with her next gigs, or listen to her live as she co-hosts the Smile Drive, weekdays from 3–6pm, on Smile 90.4FM. Plus, look out for more interviews with comedians who will be sharing their tips and thoughts on the industry.