Miss Machismo: Zoe Lyons on cracking 'the funniest joke' at last year's Edinburgh Fringe and winding up Germaine Greer

Anne Giacomantonio
Friday 17 January 2014 04:49

Zoe Lyons has been on the UK comedy circuit for six years, gigging in clubs and fringe festivals all over the country with her own brand of observational wit. She was made a patron of Pride in 2007, and will be performing at the Southbank's Udderbelly venue as part of this year's festival, alongside Craig Hill, Susan Calman and Jonathan Mayor, in Stand Up with Pride!

Are you looking forward to your Pride London show?

Yes, I'll be doing some material from my Edinburgh Fringe show, and some will be old stuff. I won't be doing the full hour – I don't think the other acts will be very impressed if I said: "I've just got to run through this stuff, I hope you don't mind."

What does being a patron for Pride London mean to you?

This year I'm going on the march as patron of Pride. I was very honoured to be asked to do it [in 2007], with the likes of Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen, who does an awful lot for Stonewall and gay rights.

I am looking forward to this year and being a bit more visible. However, if I was asked to dress up as a very proud pineapple, I'd be outta there – that's not happening.

You won the Funny Women award in 2004, just seven months after your first gig as a stand-up. What was it that made you want to be a comedian?

Utter desperation! No, I'd done psychology at university, I'd studied to be an actress at drama school and I didn't really feel very comfortable in that world. I ended up waitressing and not getting any acting work and not really pursuing acting work either.

I got to the point where I thought: if I'm really honest, what I want to try and do is be a stand-up. So I booked myself in to do five minutes [at a new act night] at the King's Head in Crouch End, north London. I had no material, obviously, but I thought I was funny, so I just wrote five minutes and did it. From that week on, I gigged continually.

How did you summon up the guts to do your first gig?

The first gig I wasn't even that nervous ... It was the second gig. I almost soiled myself and went blind with fear in one eye – I couldn't see the microphone. It was like: "I've gone blind with fear, that does really happen."

You have a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival again this year. Are you looking forward to it?

This will be my third one. Yes and no. I'll be fine once I get up there, but it's always very stressful beforehand, previewing it and making sure you have enough material. I always have fun when I get up there. It's a long old festival – four weeks is a long time and I always get homesick by the end.

I'm previewing at the moment. It's still on bits of paper and I record it on my Dictaphone, listen back later and cry to myself. It's a long, drawn-out process.

What's the theme of your show?

It's called Miss Machismo. I was slagged off by Germaine Greer in an article about whether women are funny, and I've used that as a kicking-off point. She described my sense of humour as "astonishingly vicious", along with Joan Rivers, and I was like: "Well, that's it: I've made it – now I can retire." It was basically because I did this quite hard joke about Amy Winehouse which won [the Dave award for] the Funniest Joke at the [2008 Edinburgh] Fringe".

I don't get the idea that, because we [Joan Rivers and I] are women, we shouldn't be able to take the piss out of another woman. It gave me a bit of a swagger and a sense of machismo. The show is kind of about the stupid things that people have said to me while I have been gigging around the country.

Catch Zoe at Pride London on 3-4 July. Her Edinburgh show, 'Zoe Lyons: Miss Machismo', is at the Pleasance Courtyard, from 5-30 August. Ticket line: 0131-226 0000

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