THERE’S a wonderfully original routine in Laura Lexx’s new stand-up show, Knee Jerk, that illustrates how netball symbolises the unfairness of the gender gap. Like much of her material, it’s delivered breezily but it packs a punch and underlines how often we fail to question certain things because we learn them at such a young age.
‘Netball is a prime example of how boys and girls are treated differently,’ says Laura. ‘For my generation, boys were taught this game that is everywhere. It’s easily accessible, it’s simple to play… Girls were taught this very stiff, ridiculous game that is not really played professionally to a high level — not when compared to football, anyway — isn’t played all over the world, needs all sorts of equipment and lines on the floor to play it and has incredibly restrictive rules.
‘I’ve gone through every aspect of netball and looked at how it’s indicative of the restrictions we put on women, and how we say, “Oh, it’s just sport in school,” and then you think, “Actually, how many times has a bloke walked into a pub or a job interview and used football as a social lubricant? And how many times have women been able to do the same with netball?” Pretty much zero.’
As Laura puts it, her show is mainly about her trying to be political without listing politicians she doesn’t like. In a way, it’s a time capsule of British politics, looking at the growing divisions within society, and taking in everything from feminism and gender identity to tribal politics and, of course, Brexit.
Because she has such a cheerful, friendly and non-threatening manner, it’s taken some people a while to appreciate the meatiness of her material. ‘I’m talking about lots of things, but I’m not shouting or ramming it down your throat,’ she explains. ‘I’m putting my opinion out and I’m making you laugh because to me that’s what comedy should be.
‘I don’t think a comedian has to serve up conclusions: I think they serve up images and you draw your own conclusions. I’m not stupid and I shouldn’t have to pretend to be stupid to be funny.
‘I think you can be very traditionally feminine and sweet and nice while also being cutting and that’s quite fun to play with, because we’re either dumb and funny or clever and insightful and serious, but why not be whimsical and insightful?’
Laura’s last show, Trying, which she’s dramatising for television, was all about the impact that attempting to get pregnant was having on her mental health. ‘I find talking and social interaction to be my biggest balm on an anxious mind and my favourite activity is being social with people,’ she says.
‘I’ve always found if I’m not willing to talk about something, that’s when it stays the most tender, whereas if I’m happy to joke about it and really take the mick out of it, it takes the sting out of the tail of whatever it is that’s upsetting me.’