“I’ve made some amazing friends I wouldn’t trade for anything.” | Mabel Slattery on the unifying power of comedy done right

Tell us about you/your act.

I am a slightly overeager and permanently sleepy lady with a penchant for history, literature and the giant pretzels you can get from Lidl. My act is very much just me talking absolute rubbish for as long as anyone can stand me. I genuinely thought this would fade over time but if anything it’s just got worse. 

How did you get into comedy?

I started comedy in Cornwall, which nowadays I would recommend heartily but at the time was a bit of a nightmare as there was almost no comedy there to get involved in!

A guy called Graham Wilkes started a gig and I got in contact immediately and was on at the first one of those. Then after a while I started my own night so we’d all have somewhere else to hang out and it sort of spiralled off from that.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?

Oh my darling, I only ever remember the terrible ones, that’s how it works! I think my favourite gig is a toss-up between two. The first was a gig at a festival run by a commune where about a third of the audience was dogs – we’d been told absolutely nothing about this gig so all the Cornwall lot just took it as a chance to hang out, have a laugh, get rather drunk and then attempt some kind of set (the audience didn’t really mind what we did, and I got a rather good game of fetch going at one stage).

The other is another Cornwall gig I did at Christmas time, which was the first time my grampa had ever seen me on stage. I was doing material about him which made for quite a car-ride home!

What’s your favourite thing about working in comedy?

The sheer number of awesome people you get to meet and hang out with. I’ve made some amazing friends in comedy from all over the place and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

You don’t shy away from serious topics like politics in your comedy. What is your trick to finding the funny side of things like that?

I think for me, the way I remember a lot of different things is to make them funny, or see the funny side of it. The other thing is that a lot of the time I don’t think I am being funny about politics but someone laughs and, for science, I feel I should probably try it out on stage just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

How do you think raising serious subjects on stage can help stimulate discussion around them?

Comedians have a lot of ability to make things seem approachable, and they have a lot more power than even they realise sometimes to set the tone for how things are discussed. Obviously this can be a double edged sword, but the way comedy can break issues down into its fundamental parts and examine which don’t quite fit is a brilliant way to make things memorable and less daunting.

Who is your favourite comedian we’ve never heard of?

Nick Owen of the erstwhile Cornish sketch group Dog With a Windy Face. I genuinely just tried Googling them and all I could find was stuff on wind sensitivity in dogs so both DWAWF and Nick are going to have to remain a tantalising mystery to you.

As for a comedian you can look up, Eddie French. He’s my ex-boyfriend and that good of a comedian I still feel I need to recommend him. He also snores. Loudly. 

What challenges have you faced working in comedy?

The first thing I did before doing comedy was get Speech and Language Therapy, as I have a stammer that had returned with a  vengeance in the year before I started. Cue the namecheck of my SLT Linda Elsey thus fulfilling my contractual obligations.

She genuinely taught me that my stammer was less a barrier than I thought it was, and that I could still stammer and do stand up really well without having to sacrifice my tone in the name of fluency.

Admittedly that doesn’t stop people being complete arses occasionally but they usually don’t matter in the scheme of things.

How do you think that comedy as an industry can better address these issues?

Some promoters are very hot on their “tight fives” or otherwise strict timing rules, and that’s genuinely a terrifying thing for a stammering comedian to see on an advert (at least for me, anyway!). I think a flexible approach toward timing strictness is important, but as with most things in comedy that’s something you learn over time as you get to know your acts. 

What appealed to you about being part of a show like Blizzard?

I’ve wanted to do Blizzard since it started because such an inclusive and beautifully run comedy night is the stuff of dreams. 

What have you got coming up that we should look out for?

I’ll be honest, I’m doing teacher training at the moment so not a lot! Thinking of maybe doing some things combining the teaching and comedy though so keep a weather eye on the horizon. 

Mabel is performing at Blizzard on Monday 27th January.

Book your free ticket here.

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