Tell us about your show, Hinayni!
Hinayni! is about the idea that we’re more than the sum of our parts, and how we can learn to accept the different aspects of ourselves without worrying about how other people perceive us. I’ve found it really difficult to come up with a humourous strapline for the show – which is ironic because it contains more jokes than anything I’ve ever written!
Your show explores identity. How personal does it get?
I’d say that all of my work explores identity in some way, I think that’s true of a lot of intersectional writers and performers.
Sharing the personal is a way of communicating. One of the reasons I love stand up is that it’s raw communication because the dynamics are different every time. I’m myself and I’m in the room with you and we’re going through this experience together.
I’m very open about the layers of my identity and how they have been formed, and I think that’s a subject most people can identify with.
Was it challenging putting so much intense personal reflection on the stage?
While I’m used to being very truthful on stage, I wasn’t prepared for the impact of describing my neurological disorder and the day that I became more obviously unwell.
I’d been symptomatic throughout my life but hadn’t realised that these things were abnormal until the full condition was triggered. Over a matter of days I lost my speech and my mobility and had to have a huge amount of physiotherapy and other treatment.
It was around 20 years ago but I have issues on a day to day basis and as it’s an “invisible” condition people aren’t necessarily aware that I might be struggling. It took quite a few years before I could be funny about my experiences with family and friends and I thought I was ready to take this public.
However, occasionally onstage in Edinburgh I found myself very overwhelmed by the memories and also by the fact that I felt that by choosing the elements of my disability that other people would find entertaining I wasn’t necessarily being true to myself. Ultimately I began to address this feeling in the show which helped a lot.
Has writing the show taught you anything about identity and self-reflection that you want to share with us now?
I think it’s brought home to me how much influence I’ve allowed other people to have over how I see myself. My primary school gave me a positive experience but my secondary education doled out a series of negative messages at such a formative time, and I’m now trying to unpick and undo that.
You discuss your faith a lot in your act. What is the trick to sharing this with audiences who aren’t familiar with the nuances of Jewish culture?
As the only practising orthodox Jewish woman currently on the UK comedy circuit I think people expect my material to be very niche, but of course statistically I perform for way more non-Jewish than Jewish people across the year. I’d say that I’m talking about life stuff which we all experience, it’s just through a different lens.
I’m not trying to represent all Jews or even British Jews, I can only represent myself! Once you’re talking about YOU, not the intricacies of a culture but you, yourself, as a kid, a parent, a student, a friend, we can all relate to that material.
Even if it’s said by a kosher eating, sabbath observant, hair covering Jewish mother.
What made you want to perform your new show at the Women In Comedy Festival UK?
The Women In Comedy Festival UK provides a fantastic platform for female identifying comedians – really putting us front and centre as funny acts worth seeing. It’s an incredibly supportive event and I had a really positive experience performing my last show as part of the festival. It’s great to see female promoters pushing women forward.
What do you hope people take away from your show?
I hope that people leave Hinayni! feeling positive and uplifted, it’s a show about being true to yourself and we can all benefit from peeling off a layer here and there. Most of all I hope they’ll have had a big old laugh because it’s really funny!
Are there any other shows at the Women In Comedy Festival UK that you’re excited to see?
I saw the beginning of Susan Murray‘s a few times in Edinburgh when I had a show right before her and it sounded amazing. Pauline Eyre is delivering her first full length show and having seen the half hour version I can’t wait to see this.
I’d recommend the Funny Women Showcase too, they’re always fantastic.
How do you think comedy as an industry could improve to be more supportive of women?
I think we just need to keep building ourselves and each other up. Have each other’s back. Recommend each other if we know a woman who would be perfect for a particular gig or event.
Do you have any advice for other women looking to break into comedy?
The best advice I can give someone starting out is to prepare for a rollercoaster ride, it’s hard work with tremendous highs and horrendous loss. (I’m really selling it here!)
I’d always recommend staying to the end of every gig if possible, because you learn so much from seeing how different people work the same room. And keep listening to your own work and how it’s received so that you can continue to refine it.
Keep pushing and keep learning. I’ll be learning forever.
Rachel is performing her show Hinayni! on October 6th as part of the Women in Comedy Festival.