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“I’m a Londoner before anything else” – an interview with comedian Twayna Mayne

Comedian Twayna Mayne is bringing her Edinburgh debut show Black Girl to Soho Theatre,

Described by critics as ‘honest and bold’ and ‘a role model for future generations’, comedian Twayna Mayne took critics and audiences at Edinburgh Fringe by storm, and is now bringing her debut hour “Black Girl” to Soho Theatre. With her typical deadpan delivery, she describes her childhood in foster care as a “source for good comedy material”, and talks to us about women in comedy and being a true Londoner.

London Calling: You’ve had an interesting life, though interesting is probably not the right word. It must have been quite tough.

Twayna Mayne: Looking back as an adult is interesting. I suppose it was tough. It was only a short part of my life, well, six years, but it wasn’t a constant. I went into care when I was 2 and then me and my older brother ended up with a foster mum who later adopted us. We kind of gelled as a family and decided to make it permanent and legal. But because the process takes quite a long time, it didn’t come through until I was 14.

LC: You had to forge your own identity out of all the different parts that make you you?

TM: Because my mum is white and I am black I was just a bit confused, I think. I had a bit of an identity issue, but now, since doing this show and also just growing up, I realise it is a normal teenager thing. Everybody goes through that: Who am I? Who am I going to be as an adult? Where do I fit into the world? I think I was maybe slightly more aware that I didn’t fit in anywhere and I couldn’t really find anybody like myself. So I just thought, I’m going to find it through music and books and films. Even doing that, I didn’t actually find anyone like me. But I realised you can be who you want to be, essentially, you don’t have to be 100% anything.

LC: You are a proper Londoner though, born and bred. Is London part of your identity?

TM: Definitely. I think it’s a brilliant city, it’s a diverse, everybody is here. People who are not from here come to London and you can find yourself and find similar people to yourself. If somebody were to ask me, I think I’m a Londoner before I’m English, or British, or European.

LC: In London, you can be as eccentric or unique or unusual as you want and nobody will batter an eyelid.

TM: Anything goes in this city, especially now.

LC: You took your show to Edinburgh last year where you were called a ‘star of the future’. How was your experience of Fringe?

TM: For a debut show I think I did alright. Being in Edinburgh for a whole month, doing the same show every day, and having the pressure of reviews and audiences, I think I came out of it with my mind still intact. You could quite easily get caught up in a lot of stuff in Edinburgh and put a lot of pressure on yourself.

LC: Did you have time to see other shows?

TM: Edinburgh is the only time I ever see lots of comedy. If I’m not doing a gig, I don’t really go to see comedy. Edinburgh is a good time to see people’s hour long shows as well and not just 10-15 minutes of comedy.

LC: When you are at home in London what do you like to see?

TM: I like to see live music, I go to quite a few concerts. I also quite like to go to the museums and just wander around.

LC: Your show is touching on issues of race but also gender. Is comedy still a tough place for women?

TM: No. Well. There are less women in comedy than men and why that is I am not a 100% sure. I think men and women approach comedy differently. It’s not hard for women in comedy, no, but there are always more men around. When I started comedy, I knew maybe about 50 people from the open mic circuit, and in that group there were maybe 5 women. Out of that group, there are now probably 10 guys still doing it and I am the only woman left. So the numbers going in to it are always smaller, and the fallout rate from people doing comedy is high; people drop out all the time. So if women come into it in less numbers then, with that fallout rate, there’s always going to be fewer women. And why women don’t start comedy…. I don’t know. I think it’s expectations. Men are encouraged in a different way to express themselves.

LC: Apparently the judgement is harsher for women.

TM: Yes. You can be a guy and not be so good at the start and that’s cool and I think if you look at it through the lens of socialisation of men and women, men are allowed to be loud and opinionated and boisterous, whereas women are never really encouraged to be like that. Comedy I think can reflect wider society.

But for me personally, I’m not really bothered by that. I don’t find it any tougher than anything else, and I am used to seeing certain behaviour. It’s not unusual to me.

LC: Did you always want to be a performer?

TM: No. Not at all. I find it quite surprising still.

LC: One last silly question, do you have any thoughts on the Royal Wedding and Meghan Markle?

TM: I muted the Royal wedding on my twitter, I had had enough. Her mum should have walked her down the aisle, definitely. But never mind.

Twayna Mayne will perform her comedy show Black Girl at Soho Theatre from 7 –9 June. Tickets are £11.