Young, female and VERY funny: Meet the rising stars of British comedy

The stand-ups who deliver – Emily Hill meets the young, funny, female rising stars of British comedy…

The shock merchants

Chris McAndrew

Maddy, 27, and Marina Bye, 24, daughters of Ruby Wax and TV producer Ed Bye, have been making each other laugh since childhood. Maddy (left) was encouraged to swap her office job for clown school by her late godfather Alan Rickman, while Marina got her break in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie as Kathy Burke’s assistant. They unleashed their character-based comedy at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe with their debut show Siblings. The sisters, who live together in London’s Notting Hill, are currently writing the follow-up, Siblings: Act 2.

THEIR BIG-ISH BREAK
We’ve always played ourselves, but then in 2015 we signed up for an open mic gig in Edinburgh. We were wearing cagoules and had no material. It was really bad but we had so much fun we decided to keep going.

STAGE STYLE
We try to bring our own wild and slightly chaotic energy to the stage so the audience gets to see what we create in our very childish, dirty and absurd minds. People watch us weeping or with their mouths open in shock, which is what we love the most.

CHILDHOOD CHUCKLES
Our mum has definitely inspired us – she’s hilarious. We were observing everyone we met from a tiny age and impersonating them. Nobody was safe!

ON ROMANCE
We’ll probably never get boyfriends because of our show. There are moments of real grossness: Maddy blasts wind into her mouth with a leaf blower, and her fake teeth fall out because she’s laughing so hard.

@siblings_comedy

The millennial maverick

Sun Lee

Toronto-born, London-based Mae Martin, 30, started in comedy aged 13, dropping out of school two years later. ‘I have no other qualifications so it’s imperative that it goes well,’ she deadpans. Mae has just finished touring with her hit show Dope, her first book, Will Everybody Please Calm Down? will be published in July, and she’s developing a sitcom with Skins writer Joe Hampson.

ON SEXUALITY
Everyone is a little bit gay; it’s natural and human. I’ve written the book that I wish I had when I was 14. The message is: ‘Don’t stress about your sexuality, everything is going to be fine.’

DITCHING LABELS
I’ve openly dated men and women. I don’t feel the need to label my sexuality. I don’t mean to sound coy; I just like people in general – as long as they’re funny!

HER HECKLERS
Initially, I didn’t get heckled – I was so young I think people were afraid I’d cry. But now I do. I once went on at 4am in Edinburgh and a guy shouted, ‘What are you doing, lass?’ It put me in an existential crisis because I thought, ‘I have no idea… What am I doing?’

FAVOURITE FANS
I’ve had kids bring their parents to my show and then come out to them in front of me. It’s both crazy and very flattering. It’s nice when teenagers, especially queer youth, tell me that what I’m saying is important to them.

maemartin.net

The working class champion

Steve Ullathorne

Sophie Willan, 29, from Bolton, tackles serious matters through comedy: her mother was a drug addict and she grew up in care. Proud of her roots (one reviewer said she ‘made Peter Kay sound like Rex Harrison’) and determined to challenge her audience – ‘I’m cheery enough to get away with it’ – she won the Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 and this year is the first winner of the BBC’s Caroline Aherne Bursary. She is currently touring the UK with her show Branded.

UNLIKELY BEGINNINGS
When I was eight I went to Ibiza with my grandma. While she was clubbing, I joined the hotel drama club – and discovered my passion for performing.

MEET THE FAMILY
Last time I saw my mum she had pink hair and was carrying a SuperTed lunch box as a handbag. She looked like Iggy Pop. She suffers from drug-induced psychosis and is, objectively speaking, odd. I’m the translator between her and the rest of the world.

STAGE STYLE
My shows aren’t victim shows because I am not one of life’s victims. They are matter-of-fact and funny, like me.

ON SOCIETY
It’s a difficult time to be the daughter of a heroin addict or related to anyone on benefits. I’ve watched Benefits Street and Bring Back Borstal. The general attitude in this country is to shame the poor and disabled. My shows are an antidote to this.

sophiewillan.com

The superstar-in-the-making

Matt Stronge

London Hughes, 28, from Croydon, won the Funny Women Award aged 20, the year after Katherine Ryan. With a hit YouTube series, No Filter, the stand-up and sketch comedian says, ‘My energy is so in-your-face that you don’t want to mess with me when I’m on stage.’ She has appeared in Fleabag, E4’s Celebs Go Dating and presents Extreme Hair Wars on 5Star.

COLOUR IN COMEDY
Being a black woman in comedy is like being a unicorn – ‘I’ve heard of your kind but are you really real?’ I want to be as big as Whoopi Goldberg. She transcends colour.

GIRLFRIEND MATERIAL
I’m like the Adele of stand-up – if you break up with me I’ll put you in a joke.

ON GENDER BIAS
It’s really sad that female comics aren’t getting the same opportunities as our male counterparts, but I’m trying to change that. You can probably name about six male comics with their own TV shows off the top of your head, but I expect you can’t name six female comedians with their own shows.

CLASS CLOWN
I always thought I was funny, I just didn’t know if anyone else did. Then I got bullied at school and I used to make the bullies laugh. You can’t punch if you’re laughing.

@TheLondonHughes

The surrealist

Edward Moore

Lucy Pearman, 34, was born into a family of farmers in Chipping Norton. She was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards last year for her absurdist debut solo show Maid of Cabbage, inspired by an Irish Halloween tradition in which unmarried women picked cabbages that would represent the kind of man they’d marry. The show transferred to London’s Soho Theatre.

A PROMISING START
I remember being very young and telling a joke about a radiator and a flannel. My family dreaded it because it went on for about an hour and there was no punch line. No one laughed, ever.

BORN FUNNY
My dad drove me to the Rada audition for five years in a row. Eventually, I went to Lamda.
On the first day they asked, ‘Why are you playing the clown?’ I always had a feeling I would end up being a comedian.

ON HER DYSPRAXIA
Falling over comes easily. I did a workshop at the National Youth Theatre and we had to fall over loads but make it funny. I remember thinking, ‘Finally, something I’m good at!’ I haven’t evolved much; physical comedy still plays a big part in what I do.

STAGE STYLE
My comedy is quite interactive and a bit mad. I’m always surprised by how many different age groups come to see my show.

@lucypearman

The comic songbird

Claudia Marinaro

Harriet Braine, 26, from London, sets lyrics about famous artists to classic pop songs. In 2016, she won the Funny Women Award and Best Newcomer at the Musical Comedy Awards. She started writing comedy songs as performance art during her history of art degree at Edinburgh University (‘I didn’t go into this thinking, “I want to be a comedian’”). Her debut Edinburgh show last year, Total Eclipse of the Art, was featured on the Radio 2 Arts Show with Jonathan Ross.

MUSICAL YOUTH
I picked up a guitar for the first time aged 13. I joined a band and we’d do covers but alter the style of the song. Changing lyrics was somethingI did on my own.

BEATING STAGE FRIGHT
I was very nervous at a gig in a traditional South London pub but the old geezers and the drunk punters had loads of opinions about art and really wanted to get them off their chests.

STAGE STYLE
I like shoehorning art facts into well-known tunes. The song that gets the biggest laugh is about the sculptor Giacometti, sung to the tune of ‘Black Betty’ by Ram Jam. It goes, ‘Whoa Giacometti, bam-a-lam!’

COMING UP
I don’t have a game plan but I’m working on a new show that will be set in a library in a bunker at the end of the world – it’s called Apocalibrary.

soundcloud.com/harriet-braine