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Weekend Extra: Jayde Adams on making women’s voices heard in comedy

‘I MADE that happen, didn’t I? I think they are an abomination and they’ve set feminism back 50 years.’ Comedian, actor and television presenter Jayde Adams is talking about the cancellation of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and, although her first sentence is a joke, she’s deadly serious about the sisters who have seemingly grown up believing women’s looks are the most important aspect of their lives, and have passed that distortion on to millions of girls all over the world.

In her most recent Edinburgh show, Serious Black Jumper — which was originally going to be called The Ballad Of Kylie Jenner’s Old Face and is now on Amazon Prime Video — she goes into some detail on the famously glossy family, and doesn’t hold back. She rarely does.

Some of her opinions have clearly struck a nerve: one of the clips from the show got 50million views on TikTok.

A lot has happened since Jayde won the Funny Women Award in 2014 (with a routine that starts with a bad experience on a Megabus and ends with her bringing the house down singing Nessun Dorma) and, on Tuesday, she’s hosting the Funny Women Awards finals.

‘Winning it changed my life,’ she says. ‘You find Funny Women early on because it’s a place where you can go and you know they’ll be supportive of you. It’s very open: a nice, safe place to be as a fledgling, female comic.’ Winning the prize got her noticed by her first agent, and ever since then the funny-as-all-heck Bristolian with an operatic voice has been unstoppable.

Jayde’s Edinburgh shows have demonstrated a rare range — with themes ranging from the death of her sister to an extravagant, high-budget musical, and last year’s stripped-down show in which she proved that, as she puts it, ‘if you put on a black jumper, people do want to listen to your opinions’.

She also presented Channel 4’s Snackmasters, set up and hosted Amusical (in which comedians sing songs from musicals) with Kiri Pritchard-McLean, and presented another C4 show Crazy Delicious, where Heston Blumenthal is one of the experts judging astonishing cooking challenges. Her acting roles have included BBC Two sitcom Alma’s Not Normal and BBC/Amazon’s Good Omens. There’s a lot more coming up, and she’s particularly keen to do more acting.

Given how busy she’s used to being, lockdown has been an unusual time for Jayde. She and her partner, fellow comic Rich Wilson (who hosts Insane In The Men Brain, the witty podcast about men’s mental health), both got Covid-19 early on. At first the lack of live gigs gave them a chance to recover and start relaxing (they’re both known for being hard grafters), but when showbiz is in your blood, you can’t stay away.

So she, Rich and their friend Paul Sweeney — who was living with them — started putting on glitzy Couch Cabaret shows from the flat, with guests including 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Rose Matafeo, singing comedy sisters Flo & Joan and drag star Grace Shush.

When it became clear that live comedy clubs were in serious trouble as a result of the pandemic, Jayde played a key part in setting up three ambitious nights at the Clapham Grand in London. After signing up Al Murray, she managed to get more than 40 other comics on board, including Fern Brady, Ed Gamble, Aisling Bea, Ed Byrne, Sarah Keyworth, Catherine Bohart, Shappi Khorsandi, Dane Baptiste and Jessica Fostekew.

‘I didn’t realise until I got there that it was going to feel like everyone’s first gig back,’ she recalls. ‘The nerves off stage were amazing. It was like we’d all started again. There was such an adrenaline rush afterwards.’

They raised around £20,000 to help smaller venues, but the #savelivecomedy movement was and is about so much more than that.

‘It was about awareness: to show the government that this is an art form you need to pay for; to show them how much money the industry brings into the country and how screwed it is at the moment,’ says Jayde. ‘The comedy circuit isn’t just comics — there’s a massive community that brings a lot of different things to a lot of people. We’re the voice of the people.

‘It’s wrong for comedy just to be ignored from any sort of funding because we’re not theatre. Comedians see crazy stuff happening in the world and then we comment on it, make it funny and make it more palatable. It helps people feel connected, part of things.’

As well as having lots of television and other projects coming up, Jayde can’t wait to share the show she had planned to bring to Edinburgh this year.

All about identity, it’s called Here’s One I Culturally Appropriated Earlier, and the snappy blurb that accompanies it reads: ‘Like many white people before her, desperately clinging on to social relevance, Jayde Adams has travelled the world absorbing cultures on a journey of self-discovery. Digging around in her family tree, her father uncovered a disappointing secret, that the Adams bloodline has only ever resided in Bristol. Can Jayde Adams stay relevant in an age of multiculturalism, or is it time to wheel out her Chinese half-brother?’

Various aspects of identity interest Jayde. Since being on Crazy Delicious, she has noticed that when she makes a self-deprecating comment about her weight, lots of well-meaning women contact her to say she shouldn’t speak that way about herself because she’s beautiful.

‘I know!’ she laughs. ‘It’s not about that. I’m a big, bodacious woman with a lot of confidence so when something happens to me that I can’t control, that’s funny. Getting stuck in a chair is funny. Being in an elevator and it telling me it’s over-capacity when I’m the only one in it is funny. But this new wave of body positivity is removing humour from the world because everyone is scared and we’re forgetting to laugh.

‘It’s really sweet that people want to say these things, but I find it really condescending. How can you watch me be the way I am and still think I need your help? I’m not vulnerable. We are not victims. All of this comes from women being told the only thing that matters about them is what they look like.’

JAYDE ON

The role of stand-up comedy

‘Stand-up is meant to be punk. We’re meant to be anti-establishment, and to say the unsayable. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I say, “Why?” and I want to do it.’

…being a ‘nifty gal’

‘I can dig myself out of anything because I have skills I have developed over a long time. Us working-class people are problem-solvers.’

…clothes

‘I dress for fashion. I love fashion. It’s another way of expressing my personality, and my personality is not someone who wants to get f***** by people. I want people to go “oooh” at my hat, not “oooh” at my tits.’

…Women as sexual objects

‘You shouldn’t have to be sexual for people to want to listen to you. Boys don’t have to do it, so we definitely don’t either. Because of the patriarchy and women being sexual objects, we trick ourselves into believing it’s empowering, but it’s not. The fact that it’s only skinny girls being sexualised might make people think I want a bit of that — well, I don’t. I want what the boys have got: to be considered as clever, and I want people to be intimidated by my humour and confidence.

FUNNY WOMEN FINALISTS

Izzy Askwith

‘My comedy is low energy, deadpan and observational. It’s been described as anti-comedy.’ https://youtu.be/yqRaUIDWmGY

Naomi Cooper

‘As soon as anything amusing, embarrassing or weird happens to me, I write it down. If you go through the Notes app on my phone, all you’ll find is ideas for sets and other people’s wifi passwords.’ https://youtu.be/zMAHZEeRlX0

Katie Green

‘My style is a bold and unapologetic mix of observational comedy and impressions. My set is reflective of my Salvadoran roots and growing up in a bicultural household in California.’ https://youtu.be/sxWTVyZJuQ8

Ania Magliano

‘I do stand-up about growing up as a bisexual half-Polish, half-Italian Aquarius. Even though that sounds very specific, I think my stand-up style is relatable and chatty.’ youtu.be/m6_z-KPTc7U

Mary O’Connell

‘Usually frustrated and dangerously aloof at the same time.’ youtu.be/FT5-9HLBh2o

Fiona Ridgewell

‘I’m the sort of comedian who, when on stage, overshares and gossips about her friends, family and anyone I meet at a bus stop.’ youtube.com/watch?v=YiFp-4oRsqo

Christina O’Sullivan

‘My comedy focuses on feminism. I say the word “abortion” a lot and share the wisdom that straight white men have imparted on me.’ https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MQyM2VPp386cHduAzCv0QcwGu_m0qkMt/view

Eryn Tett

‘Wordplay, as well as odd observations and surreal storytelling, which are all set to a charmingly uncomfortable rhythm.’ youtu.be/-2AzMVfeVWA

The Funny Women Stage Awards final will be available as a live stream only from 7.30pm on Tuesday, tickets available from  funnywomen.com