One of the best acts of the Liverpool Comedy Festival this year, Andi Osho is one of stand up’s rising stars. MADEUP instantly fell for her many charms, and has been raving about her ever since. City comic Jake Mills got to know her during her stay at the fest, and in a guest post for this site, spoke to her to find out little bit about what makes her tick.
Andi Osho is one of the UK’s fastest rising comedians, gaining a huge reputation as one of England’s funniest and most glamorous acts. Despite only being on the comedy scene for a relatively short time, after four years she is already making a huge name for herself, which is incredible considering comedy was only a last ditch attempt to make money.
“I got into comedy as a necessity more than anything really,” she says. “I was an actor, with very little work coming in and I was a part time receptionist too. Money was becoming a real issue so as a way of keeping my hand in the pot I decided to try stand up comedy. I had a real desire to perform, not particularly comedy but I needed that release you get from performing. I knew people who were doing comedy, which was the main help I needed really because I was far too scared to get on stage. I done a course, which served as a platform and then it took off from there really.”
Even at her first show, Andi was making people sit up and notice her talent. “It was after my first performance when someone came up to me and suggested I entered the Funny Women competition. I was new so I had no idea about it really, I didn’t know it was for new acts or anything, I thought all female comedians could enter. I thought ‘I’d have no chance against the likes of Jo Brand and Dawn French.’”
Andi took on the challenge of the competition in 2007 and, unsurprisingly to those around her, she won it. She explains how this really changed things for her: “What a competition like that does is, it kind of puts you on the radar for people of importance to notice you. The competition alone is probably what has got me where I am today. It got the ball rolling, even if I wasn’t quite ready for it. I got an offer for a 30 minute corporate show, which is great and all but, I only had 8 minutes worth of material. I wasn’t going to turn it down so I done it. I think I managed to get away with it too. I just got people on stage and padded like a maniac. I’ve never heard from them since about going back.”
TV offers started coming in and it wasn’t long before Andi was appearing on shows such as Mock the Week on the BBC. “It was Mock the Week that started getting me more attention really, people start seeing you in a different way after you’ve been on shows like that. I was getting offers for pilots for my own show, done The Comedy Roadshow and now Stand Up For The Week.” Now her break has finally come she intends on grasping it with both hands. “Some people work hard their whole lives just to get noticed and it never happens for them. For me, my chance has come and I was lucky enough to be able to go for it, I’ll always be grateful for that. I’m doing what I love.”
For Andi, comedy was always a big part of her life, being inspired from an early age. “When I was young, comedy was comedy, there was no distinction, I didn’t really know the difference between stand up or sitcoms, I just knew people were laughing,” she said. “I loved things like Blackadder, Jasper Carrot and Ben Elton. I remember watching Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’ and that changed my world. It was what everyone was talking about in school, I knew half the jokes before I’d even seen it.” Even with those inspirations, Andi explains that she didn’t ever expect to be a comedian herself. “I never even considered doing it as a job. I never used to go to comedy shows or watch them on TV and think, ‘One Day!!’ I was just captivated by the magic of it. It just seemed so natural, like it was all made up, it didn’t come in to my head that it could possibly be prepared, they were just funny. It didn’t seem like a job.”
Something that Andi never seems to be able to escape are the inevitable questions following her into every interview she does, questions about her race and gender within the career path she has chosen.“People like to talk about race and gender don’t they? I can’t say that my gender or race has really been a hindrance or an advantage for me, I’m the wrong person to ask really. Ask a woman who is struggling on the open mic circuit, who, even though she’s good, she’s not getting a break. Because I got a break, really early on.
“I bypassed loads of white and black guys, so I’m not the person to ask whether it’s hard or not because I could say ‘Nope, it’s easier!’ I don’t think it’s about being a woman or being black, I think what it comes down to is being different to the norm and ultimately getting a break. People are always willing to point out that there aren’t enough women comedians or black sitcoms. I honestly don’t think there is any argument there, it’s a very competitive field and there are people getting rejected every single day, black or white, male or female, it’s the same in most jobs. There aren’t many male midwives, there’re more black football players than white, that doesn’t mean there’s anything dodgy or underhand going on. I remember people saying that there aren’t enough black people going to opera houses. Well, what’s enough black people? Maybe black people don’t want to go to opera houses. Black people, as well as white people, like some things and don’t like others. I don’t know the statistics and neither do you. It’s just life. It’s just a non-topic for me.”
That said, Andi is very proud of her ethnicity and based her first Edinburgh show around her roots and being a female comedian, but now, she feels it’s time to move on. “I’ve talked about race and ethnicity, now that’s done, I just want to move on to new topics. I want my comedy to be accessible to everybody, I don’t want people to feel out of the loop or outcasts from my jokes or shows. I am not trying to make people feel guilty, I don’t want to attract that kind of attention, the wrong kind. Not that I am scared of it, more because I just want to be funny. Making people laugh is what my job is, I love doing it and I just want to get on with it, I only do it to make people happy, the last thing I’d want would be for my comedy to do the opposite.”
Even with so much going on around Andi, she remains to keep her feet firmly on the ground, “You know in a job like this, you can have it all one minute and it’s gone the next. I am so lucky to be given opportunities when I haven’t even been going that long and I am totally grateful for that.???There are so many great acts who have been going for longer than me who are yet to make it and sometimes I feel guilty around them. But you can’t, they tell me that, there are some genuinely lovely people on the circuit who might never make it, there might be some not so nice people who are making it. I just have to keep working hard, keep mysel
f grounded and take nothing for granted. I’ve still got so much to learn.
“Every step seems like the most important thing, but looking back you realise it might not have been as important or scary as you thought, I like to keep that in mind when opportunities come along. It’s like when you were at school doing your A Levels and you’d think ‘Oh my God, this is the most important moment of my life’ and now you look back and you can’t even remember what you got in your A Levels. That kind of thinking helps at times, especially when you have shows to prepare for, the stress of reviewers and peers you know, I want to impress these people but at the same time, I can only do my best and I will always do my best.”
Andi is taking her show, Afroblighty, to the Edinburgh Fringe festival again this year and will then be touring it around the country, with dates and ticket details available on www.andiosho.co.uk.
This interview first appeared in Comic Magazine