“Kayfabe is the act of blending characters and reality – which is sometimes how it feels to be a woman” | Janina Smith and Joey Timmins talk Fake Heat and feminism

Tell us about your show, I’m OKayfabe.

I’m OKayfabe is a feminist wrestling comedy that pits female stereotypes against one another in a bid to find the ‘ultimate woman’. 

Where did the idea for a wrestling comedy double act come from in the first place?

We were performing in a show together a few years ago and bumped into each other on the train to work. We were both tired as we had been up all night, when we asked each other why we had the same answer; we had been watching Wrestlemania

The other half of this idea came from a long conversation in a pub where we were lamenting entering our 30s and still having no idea how to ‘fit’ the roles that society lays out for us. 

What made you want to combine comedy with wrestling?

Pro wrestling is already a very comedic performance style. The characters are larger than life and painted with broad brush strokes. This lends itself wonderfully to parody. Wrestling matches usually follow a certain structure designed to take the audience on a journey. Learning these structures and then playing around with them has added so much to our comedy and our storytelling. 

Tell us about your take on the relationship between wrestling and feminism.

In wrestling you have two main types of characters – ‘the face’ (the hero) and ‘the heel’ (the villain). This felt like the perfect way to portray the idolised and demonised ideas of women in our society. 

Where did you get the idea for I’m OKayfabe specifically?

Wrestling deals with ‘Kayfabe’. This is a pro wrestling term which refers to the act of blending characters and reality – which is sometimes how it feels to be a woman, trying to fit the ideals of how we’re “supposed to” look and behave. 

We were so sure that we wanted to make this show that we learnt to wrestle with an incredible female wrestling collective called Burning Hearts Fighting Entertainment. We owe so much to them. If you’re in London get down to one of their shows!

I’m OKayfabe invites guest comedians to commentate on each show. What inspired this decision?

Wrestling matches are so exciting and raucous. We wanted to create an atmosphere which echoes this, while still having complete control over the story arc. Joey Page is our regular Play by Play commentator (the commentator who gives a blow by blow account) and he’s responsible for telling a lot of the story of the match.

Our guest commentators are in the Colour Commentator position (they support the heel) and add such a great spontaneity.

How do you choose which comedians you’re going to invite?

Frequently we’ve seen them before in shows and been blown away, so have extended an offer, but sometimes they’re so into wrestling that they contact us! Surprisingly, there’s a high comedian/wrestling nerd crossover ratio. 

Is it more fun if your guests are already into wrestling or is it funnier for you if they go in completely unaware of what to expect?

There’s a ‘Spanish announce table’ sign that greets people on the way in. If they’re into wrestling they’ll have a strong suspicion what might happen at a certain point in the show, and get excited. If they don’t know, we don’t fill them in and we’ve had some amazing reactions! It’s actually a real delight seeing how carried away commentators can get with the wrestling.

What’s your favourite thing a guest commentator has come out with?

Seeing what they choose as their ‘commentator name’ is always really fun! Phil “the throwback” Ellis; Sarah The Key To Worth (Sarah Keyworth); Joey “Double J” Page (a play on the wrestler Triple H); Kayla MacQuarrie went with ‘Macho Trans Mandy Savage – a play on Macho Man Randy Savage, the famous wrestler. Matt Winning! He didn’t really need to make one up….

What do you hope audiences take away from your show?

Whatever they get out of it, we’re happy. Hopefully the show is silly enough for people to have a fun time, and if it makes them think a little, or have empathy for our characters, even better. Our favourite sight is seeing a woman in the audience nodding vigorously at something that she’s obviously experienced in her life and is relating to.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

Ha, well Joey is in two other shows at the festival so obviously those! She can be seen doing a range of silly voices in cult horror comedy podcast the Unseen Hour, and playing the part of a loveable dimwit (not a stretch) in delightful family show Big Bones with an all female cast.

In fact, there’s an incredible array of female led theatre on the books this year – What the Dolls Saw, created by the amazing Nic Carter, should be a highlight. In terms of funny people, Kat Bond and Freya Parker are hilarious… Teddy LambTom Mayhew guest commentated one of our shows, we can’t wait to see him in action again!

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

Make stuff that you take joy in, rather than material you think might be “hot topics” in the industry. Otherwise what’s the point?

Fake Heat is a double act created by comedians Janina Smith and Joey Timmins. They are performing at Vault Festival from 18th-22nd March.

Book your free ticket here.

You can keep up with everything Fake Heat are doing by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can find out more about Janina by following her on Twitter and Instagram.

You can find out more about Joey by following her on Twitter and Instagram.

%d bloggers like this: