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March 8, 2021

Interview with Nicole Britton

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Nikki Britton with The Comedy Collective

Nikki Britton: The Comedy Collective with Mel Buttle and Dave Thornton

Byron Comedy Fest  |  Byron Surf Club  |  Saturday 19 May  |  8.30pm

Comedian Nicole Britton recalls a time when she felt like a mega celebrity.

‘It was a 5-minute late-night spot in India. I was travelling with the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow and we were at the Bangalore Comedy Festival. Comedy is only really seven years old in India, so all the comedians over there are megastars, but they are new. So I was doing this late-night show to a room of about 300 people. I have never felt such a buzz in the room before; they were so up for it. I think it was also the first late-night comedy show that they’d ever had there! I came out and did some stuff about female masturbation and female sexuality – not apologising, just very matter of fact – and the crowd went wild. Women were screaming. They stood on their chairs to try to hear it better. It was like hearing their experience reflected back to them, but this was India, a very hierarchial society, and here was a white woman speaking perfect English (also something they value) and talking about visceral human experiences in an empowered way. I had five minutes; I reckon I did a minute and a half. The reaction was so intense I couldn’t do any more. It went way beyond just being a comic!’

As a 35-year-old woman in comedy Britton has the benefit of a scene where generations of women comics have trailblazed before her, although the gender bias in comedy still exists. Perhaps because sexism still exists. Britton’s new show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival this year is Once Britton, an exploration of what femininity looks like when the world is changing.

Britton isn’t one of the comics in the unofficial standup uniform of t-shirt, jeans, and volleys. She’s a frock lover.

‘I am feminine and that doesn’t make me less… I love a fucking frock, so cop it! A millennial said to me the other night it was great to see a fem comedian doing as well as I am doing. I didn’t think of that before. I wear a frock on stage because Nikki Britton likes to wear a frock.’

Britton came to comedy at 27. She was drunk at a friend’s barbecue and her friend thought this would be the ideal time to sign her up for Raw Comedy.

‘I thought, oh well I will give it a shot,’ says Nikki. ‘I didn’t win but I made it through to the next round and then I kept getting booked at gigs around the place.’

Britton started out as an actor, but while there are many roles for women, Britton states that they’re typically ‘beautiful’ women with only a few roles for comedic actresses. ‘A few wonderful comedic actresses in Sydney were getting all the work so standup comedy provided the opportunity for me to be on stage in the spotlight. In comedy you get up every night of the week. You have a voice. You can hone your skills while talking about what’s in your landscape. I fell in love with that. I never thought I would but it has been amazing!

Twelve years ago an article in Vanity Fair claimed ‘Women Aren’t Funny’. The writer of that is now dead, and guess what? Women are funny. Really, really funny. In fact it’s funny women whom people are clambering to see on stage.

‘The “women aren’t funny” statement is so tired and old. Women haven’t necessarily been allowed to be funny on stage because society has reduced them and not valued their opinions and certainly not allowed them to hold space. It’s only been in the last 20 years that you really get to hear women’s voice on stage.’

Nikki Britton is featured comic along with Mel Buttle and Dave Thornton at the Byron Comedy Fest at the Byron Surf Club on Sunday. byroncomedyfest.com

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