“There are only two types of women in adverts: they’re either having an orgasm about a yoghurt or laughing at a salad...” So the cheerfully ungrateful comedian Bridget Christie tells CHARLES HUTCHINSON
IN the words of Yorkshire comedy promoter Toby Clouston-Jones, “if you think you’d enjoy a 43-year-old woman shouting about gender inequality, in a Gloucester accent, for nearly two hours, then this is definitely the show for you”.
Make that two shows, because the woman in question, Bridget Christie, is touring an edited 40-minute version of her 2013 Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning show A Bic For Her, “with all the jokes taken out,” she says, followed by an interval, then the full 60 minutes of her 2014 Edinburgh Fringe five-star hit An Ungrateful Woman.
She played The Basement at City Screen, York, two nights ago, and further Yorkshire shows follow at Wardrobe in Leeds on Tuesday, Hull’s Fruit Space on Wednesday and Harrogate Theatre, as part of the 2014 Harrogate Comedy Festival, on Thursday.
Bridget had spent the best part of a decade doing what she calls “titting about on the circuit”, performing semi-surrealist concept shows about Charles II or confessionals on working at the Daily Mail, and was pondering a sabbatical from the annual slog of readying herself for the Edinburgh Fringe when she struck gold with A Bic For Her.
“I’d done eight shows in a row, and while I had a very small, loyal following, I wasn’t really making any real progress,” she recalls. “Then two things happened. I toured War Donkey, during which I learnt an awful lot. Then I got my own radio series [Bridget Christie Minds The Gap] and because I couldn’t rely on costumes, props or pulling silly faces, I had to concentrate purely on the writing side of things.”
Instead of mucking around in wigs, wearing fake hands, pretending to be an ant and eating celery and other crunchy foodstuffs on stage, Bridget decided to write some actual material.
“That really changed my whole approach to what I did,” she says. “For the first time in my career, I was writing about things I was genuinely passionate about, something I didn’t have the confidence to do before.
“I returned to Edinburgh curious to see whether the radio series would make a difference in ticket sales, and it did. I genuinely didn’t think A Bic For Her would go down particularly well, but it was a show I really wanted to do so I really committed to it. Now I’ve got the confidence to express my opinions on stage, it’s opened up the possibilities of stand-up to me. But I’m still very much figuring it all out.”
A Bic For Her was written in reaction to Bic creating a ballpoint pen in pink, designed expressly to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand, “because we have different hands, don’t we,” scoffs Bridget.
The show struck a chord, winning the 2014 South Bank Sky Arts Award for Best Comedy and Chortle Award for Best Show, and when it played The Soho Theatre for nine weeks it broke the London theatre’s box-office record for a comedy show.
An Ungrateful Woman ensued this summer at Edinburgh, again billed as being “feminist-themed”, just as the Bridget Christie Minds The Gap series for BBC Radio 4 had been.
Ah, feminism. That eight-letter word.
“What, have you counted?!” says Bridget, before commenting more seriously on the tag. “I’m a comedian who believes in basic human rights, so they can call me that if they want, but it’s like calling John Bishop ‘the non-racist John Bishop’.
“I don’t really mind [the feminist tag]. That’s what I am, but I’ve been a comic for 11 years now, and I’ve done only two shows about feminism, so I wonder if I’ll do the next show about something else.”
Right now that means combining her penchant for silly playfulness with discussing important issues of the day.
Topics to be given the Christie treatment on her autumn tour are “the daft spoutings of high-profile misogynists; government campaigns against female genital mutilation; why British sexism is just as bad as sexism anywhere else in the world; why our feminist icons are fixed by the media; and the continued wrong-headed attempts at blaming the victims of rape instead of their attackers”.
Then add in Bridget’s recollections of auditioning for yoghurt adverts, rearranging lads’ mags in newsagents and taking part in a panel show purely to raise funds for far more worthwhile causes. “I’m fully aware that some of the subject matter, especially some of the more serious issues, might not fit in with a lot of people’s idea of a night’s entertainment, but I’d like to reassure any potential punters that there will be jokes, funny walks and many different types of amusing facial expressions to keep things ticking along,” she says.
“I think part of the success of A Bic For Her was the timing of it. The media decided, for whatever reason, that ‘2013 was the year feminism found the Edinburgh Fringe’, even though out of the nearly 650 comedy shows, only a handful covered feminism and a few of us — Danielle Ward, Nadia Kamil, Josie Long — had been talking about feminist issues for a while already.”
Before she turns her thoughts to her next show, Bridget has “a lot of work to be getting on with”, as well as being the mother of two young children (she is the wife of fellow comedian Stewart Lee).
“I’m writing my book, A Book For Her, a sort of funny look at feminism, and then there’s the second series of my first series of Bridget Christie Minds The Gap for Radio 4,” she says. “I’m writing it at the moment and recording it in November and it will be on air in January.”
In the meantime, you can enjoy Bridget’s thoughts on the portrayal of women in adverts in An Ungrateful Woman.
“There are only two types of women in adverts; they’re either wanton or a bit silly and vacuous. They’re either having an orgasm about a yoghurt or laughing at a salad.”
Be grateful that the ungrateful Bridget Christie is around to make such observations.