Having garnered a reputation for her audacious wit, multi-award winning comedian, actress and writer Bridget Christie prepares to embark on her 2016 spring tour, A Book For Her, which shares its name with her debut book, published in July 2015 to critical acclaim. Like the book, themes of feminism and human rights form the backbone of Christie’s stand-up routines, where realism meets the absurd in the most hilarious way.

You’ve just finished a string of London shows and will soon be on the road with A Book For Her. How are you feeling about it?

I’m looking forward to it. Well, I’m not looking forward to being away from home, because the kids are small. I do like going round the country and meeting people. Because I’m not really on social media, I don’t often get the opportunity to interact with my audience that much. It’s great because you can go away and get lots of writing done on trains and stuff like that. All I ever wanted to be able to do was tour in my own right, so I suppose I hope the rooms fill up.

How do you maintain the delicate balance of family life with a hugely successful career that often comes with a demanding schedule?

It’s really weird how it happened for me. I mean, I’m 45 in august. There’s just no right time to have children and for your career to take off. Ideally, I suppose you’d get ahead before you had children so you weren’t slogging yourself to death when they’re little. There’s no way around it. I’m not complaining, but it really is a balance. Sometimes you feel like you’re not doing anything properly. You do learn to juggle it a little better the longer you do it, but if I wasn’t in work right now, I’d be complaining about that and blaming the kids to their faces.

Bridget Christie

A Bic For Her (2013) and An Ungrateful Woman (2014) were both hugely successful and won the Chortle Award for Best Tour. A Book For Her is up for nomination this year.

Yes it is! But I don’t think I’ll win this year, because it’s a public vote and I’m not on social media. I made a decision years ago to not be on social media. It seemed like opening a can of worms to me, but it’s not. It’s a wonderful thing, and the Internet is an amazing thing. There have been times where I’ve thought it may be useful, when someone has taken me out of context and misconstrued, or a journalist has just got something completely wrong that I’ve apparently said. I sometimes think if I was on Twitter, I could say, ‘Hey, I actually didn’t say that. I said the opposite of that.’ There are disadvantages with not being on it, because you can’t clarify things to people.

You’re a regular on the Edinburgh Fringe circuit and have been attending since the start of your career. How has the Fringe shaped you as a performer?

It’s completely shaped me. I remember when I started doing stand-up now and then, back in 2003-2004. In stand-up now, they’re out seven nights a week gigging, and I didn’t do that for quite a while into my career. For a start, it’s hard to get gigs. You kind of have to beg promoters to let you have five minutes, and then you sort of build it up over the years and get more slots. But I was completely naive. I didn’t really know how anything worked and I didn’t really have a plan. I just used to do loads of different material all the time, instead of honing in on 10 or 20 minutes of content.

However, what I did start to do, against a lot of people’s advice, was Edinburgh shows which ran for four hours or so, right at the beginning, even before I had a proper set. I still don’t even have a proper club set that I can do, which is a failing on my part. Even though I’ve done 11 Edinburgh shows, I still don’t have a good 15-20 minutes I can do in any club, after all this time. But I do have all these shows that I’ve been able to do theatre runs with, and tour art centres with, and that is always what I wanted to do.

Would you say that the recurring theme of feminism throughout your work is a conscious effort?

It’s interesting to me. I’ve been talking about feminism in my shows since 2011-2012. I did a show called War Donkey which was about feminism, then I did a radio series, and then A Bic for Her, which was the one that really took off, I think. I don’t pick themes. I just write about what’s important to me at any given time. The thing about feminism is that it’s human rights, so that never ends or stops. I do feel that I have a responsibility to my audience. It’s such a direct relationship and everything else is irrelevant.

Stand-up comedy is still a very male-dominated arena. What can be done to address that gender imbalance?

Yes it is, and it’s a massive question for the whole of society to address, because it happens in every single profession. But what I think will help is to encourage more and more women and girls to go into professions that have been historically male-dominated. The more women that come through, the less unusual it will be when women are seen doing those roles in subjects such as politics and science. We won’t be viewed as different and won’t need to be representative of our whole gender. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we’re judged as individuals, rather than by sex. It’s a huge seismic shift that’s going to have to happen everywhere, not just in stand-up.

How much work do you typically put into a routine about something like female genital mutilation (FGM) before you feel confident about discussing it on stage?

Although it may not look like I’ve put much work in, I’ll have put an extraordinarily large amount of work into even a two-minute routine about something as serious as that. It’s about tone, it’s about language, and you owe it to the subject to have a really good think about what you’re going to say.

Knowledge, information and facts are your armour, if you like. You need to know what you’re talking about. Being absurd and writing comedy about a serious issue doesn’t insult victims. It’s satirising ideas that are completely and utterly absurd. Supporters [of fgM] say it’s a cultural tradition, but that is absurd because it’s torture and abuse.

People seem to take things at face value. I had people saying that my routine was deeply offensive to those who have suffered with fgM. This person really thought that I saw fgM as being the same as Morris dancing. I can’t write something and think, ‘Oh, someone might think I’m being serious about this,’ because my job is to find different ways of talking about serious things. You’ve got to be free to be able to do that.

What do you most want the audience to take away from your shows?

Don’t let a lack of confidence get in the way, try and go for it, and don’t ever think it’s too late, because it’s not.

 

bridgetchristie.co.uk

Inset photo by Idil Sukan.

Ebony Nembhard