"More often I’m asked, “Why do you have a strop on?” by my husband" Chewing the fat with Sara Barron
We had a lovely chat with comedian Sara Barron last July, ahead of her Edinburgh Fringe show. She's finishing up a few dates with that show this month, and getting ready to head back to Scotland with a new show for 2019. She very kindly took time out of her vacation - who works on vacation??? - to answer our questions on her shows, the tour, women in comedy, and a bunch of other interesting things.
Hey Sara, how are you and what have you been up to today?
Hi Max, I’m fine, thank you very much for asking. As I write to you it’s 9 am. Thus far, I’ve had 1.5 cups of coffee, I read a few books to my 3-year-old and then fed him mac-and-cheese for breakfast, before hate-stalking a few folks on social media. I haven’t yet showered.
And where are you right now?
I’m currently sat on my parents’ sofa in my hometown of Highland Park, Illinois. I’m here for a two-week holiday and my mother is sat on the adjacent sofa pontificating on the origins of my grandmother's fungal virus. My 3-year-old son is now upstairs with his grandfather, my dad, discussing, in no particular order, pigs, legos and buses.
I was very tempted to send you exactly the same questions as you answered back in July last year, just to see how your answers compare. But I thought I should try and actually do the Q&A thing rather than copy and paste, so, tell us about you. In the style of a limerick.
A woman - she’s me! - has bad hair.
And it strikes her as grossly unfair
That no matter the style
It always looks vile
Like a bird’s nest in need of repair.
And what would your attempt as a self describing haiku be like?
Childbirth took four days
I’ve not fully recovered
My kid is now 3.
That's a very good haiku. How’s your 2019 been so far?
Pretty medium, I guess. New Year’s was a wash. January highlights included an espesh good vegetarian reuben sandwich and a successful run of shows at London’s Soho Theatre. Feb and March involved tour support for the impossibly perfect Nish Kumar, and April, thus far, has included the aforementioned discussion about my grandmother’s fungus. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Tell us about ‘For Worse’.
I guess I drummed it up in response to the ceaseless social media posts that people do about their jobs, their marriage, their kids. The whitewashing, the photogenic angles. The relentless subtext that shouts, “MY LIFE IS REALLY GREAT! THINGS GO GREAT FOR ME! I’M REALLY VERY HAPPY!”
‘For Worse’ is intended as an antidote to all of that, as it takes another woman’s happy ending – “I’m engaged!!!!” – as the start of a story that tracks the misery of compromise, and weighs the value of the ticket price of a lifetime of companionship. Served up is the underbelly of domestic life.
How have you got on touring the show out in the wild?
Well, technically I haven’t toured it. I just did a run at Soho Theatre in London, and its swan song will be in late May at the uber-lovely Komedia in Brighton.
What can you tell us about your Fringe show for 2019?
It’s called 'Enemies Closer', and over the course of what I hope will be a raucous, bawdy, angry, energetic and hysterical 60 minutes, it’ll examine the line between who’s a friend and who’s an enemy.
You were nominated for best newcomer last year, does that mean much to you?
Without question. It was one of my most joyful professional moments thus far. Just this huge, fat, glorious, beautiful honor. It guarantees you very little, of course, but nonetheless, it’s such a boon to the ego, and here’s hoping if I play it right it’s a nice ol’ boon to the career as well.
You did a few shows at the Soho Theatre in January, what was the worst thing that happened during those shows?
I’m sorry to bore you on this one, but there was not a bad part to it. I mean, in the run-up, my anxiety was through the roof, and actually there was one woman in one night who scowled at me throughout, but that was as spicy as it got. Otherwise - honestly - a dream week.
Last time we asked you to describe your comedy style, you used two words. Without checking, what were those two words?
Oooo! Fun question. Okay, maybe I said something like… bawdy and aggressive? Is that it? Am I close?
You're very very close: "artfully aggressive". You know yourself, always a good thing. So, how many times a week do you get asked to “be funny” or “tell a joke”?
I mostly avoid that pitfall. More often I’m asked, “Why do you have a strop on?” by my husband. For me, that’s the central, current question of my life. I think it comes part and parcel with doing standup at night, and waking early with a small child.
What makes you laugh most in life?
My friend Annabel doing karaoke. Her voice is so very terrible: simultaneously gentle/weak, but also aggressively off-key, and she really knows how to commit, performance-wise. Her best number is Katy Perry’s 'Roar', and I am giggling even now thinking how well/terribly she manages the opening lyric: “I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath.”
Tell me something stupid.
The above was pretty stupid, right? As is another thing I find exceptionally funny, which is people trying and failing to silence a fart.
There’s a lot of talk about a lack female comedians on TV and comedy bills, what’s your experience of being a women in the comedy world?
I started standup in 2014, so I've "come of age", as it were, at a time when, more often than not, I'm not the only woman on the bill. This tends to mean I'm mostly around bookers and other comics who aren’t sexist themselves. That said, when I am the only woman on the bill, that sort of bare minimum box ticking often means some bit of sexism will rear its head. I did a gig, maybe six months ago, where I was the only woman on the bill, and the compere, after I got off stage said, “That was Sara Barron. Pretty funny, right? For a woman.”
The audience groaned. And then he went, “I’m just kidding! Sara’s not a woman!” I have no doubt he would say he was joking, but it’s not a fucking joke when you reguarly have - at most! - one woman on a bill of four comics, and the other male acts do sexist jokes, which they’re too dim-witted to understand are sexist. I’m talking material about how women all try and trap men into marriage, how women are nags, that sort of thing. Needless to say, that was the last time I did the gig.
What should people (bookers, agents, punters) be doing better?
Bookers should be better about prioritizing diversity - of color, gender and class - in their lineup. Agents should be the same. Punters should do as they please. It's not their business how I go about comedy, and it's not my business how they go about their comedy viewing.
Tell us a charity we should support. And why.
International Rescue Committee, because it’s an active, effective organization that supports the communities that Trump and his supporters and Brexit and its voters are trying to further disenfranchise.
What other comedian should I check out?
Sophie Duker (you can thank me for this later, when she’s all big and famous, and you say you saw her ‘when’)
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Milk, no sugar.
Sara is performing her show 'For Worse' at the Soho Theatre on 26th and 27th of April. Tickets are currently available.