On a brisk, grey Thursday afternoon, you can always rely on a comedian to brighten up your day and Tiff Stevenson is not your average comedian.
Tiff Stevenson is instantly recognisable from the BBC’s critically-acclaimed People Just Do Nothing and satirical shows like Mock the Week and Show Me the Funny, Stevenson is quickly becoming a household name on the comedy scene and brings the much-lauded new political show Bombshell to Brighton in April that she first performed at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it received rave reviews. We caught a word with her before her whistle-stop tour around Britain hit the road.
Bombshell may well be an apt name: “It might be my last show if Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un haven’t launched a nuclear attack by then and destroyed the world!” she jokes. It sounds like something out of a wacky comedy drama, something Stevenson is aware of as she started out in acting, notably starring in The Office before venturing into stand-up comedy when borne out of frustration with a lack of good acting opportunities, she wanted to share her own stories on stage.
Stevenson’s family supported her career change and still attend her weekly London show Old Rope on Monday nights. She may not come from a family of comics but she is not fazed by the big stage: her father once organised Wembley concerts for superstars including Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen.
Now she is making her own name for herself, citing Joan Rivers, Victoria Wood and Wanda Sykes as the comedy idols she wanted to emulate. “I love the American stand-up style. Joan particularly opened my eyes to non-sketch or character-led comedy but that was different.”
The Brighton audience can expect more of Stevenson’s renowned, inimitable style, sometimes labelled as “provocative” and “engaging”, as she refuses to shirk strong current political topics. She constantly re-writes her shows to remain relevant and topical, one time lambasting anti-abortionist characters such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Bannon, who she classes as “womb-botherers who want to interfere with women’s reproductive rights”. Unlike many comedians, she addresses serious issues relating to social mobility including the Grenfell Tower tragedy as she intends to provoke reactions and make her audiences question difficult themes.
A firm advocate of women’s rights, her sets combine wit with an emphasis on feminist issues, as she details one upcoming sketch about how men should give women compliments. Stevenson also bangs the drum for greater representation of women, working class, gay and black people in the media in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “It’s not just a pay gap, it’s an opportunity gap. We’re moving away from the ‘male, pale and stale’ default but the landscape is not changing quickly enough,” she explains.
With an ever-evolving comedic environment, Stevenson believes that platforms like Netflix, Facebook video and podcasts are the future and will feature more women who have to start their own projects. “The more voices you hear the more interesting it is,” she acknowledges.
And how is she feeling about performing in Brighton? “I can’t wait! I’ve already performed many times at Komedia. I have a fan base there and it’s great because it’s a creative, artsy and diverse place to do a show. It’s always a joy to play!” The show is yet to preview here so many people will get their first viewing of her work on the night.
Her CV certainly speaks for itself too. Named in the Times’ “Top 10 Comics to watch at the Edinburgh Fringe” in 2015 and recognised in the Top 10 Funniest Women in the BBC 100 Women Project, her success has not gone unnoticed. She will also attend the prestigious Oslo Freedom Forum alongside legendary chess player, Garry Kasparov, as a guest speaker to discuss issues raised in her sets. Work also begins soon on the fifth series of her award-winning BBC hit, People Just Do Nothing. These are no mean feats.
She clearly rates this show highly too. In her own words, Stevenson ranks this as the best tour she has ever done: “I really enjoy performing it and what it has to say. I like working in front of the zeitgeist because it’s about predicting what’s to come so I address Grenfell and other social mobility issues. It’s very off the moment and timely.”
Bombshell is perfect for a spring Saturday evening with a few bombshells thrown in to stir up the audience. If you are lucky she might even throw in her party trick: “I can sing Stevie Nicks turning into Cartman from South Park!” she exclaims, whilst encouraging fans to book tickets quickly. “It’s a fun and good night despite the serious topics. If you’ve come to my shows before, bring your friends, especially if you’re on a hen do!”
Bombshell comes to Komedia in Brighton on Saturday 14 April at 8.00pm with doors opening at 7.30pm. Tickets from £15 are still available at: www.komedia.co.uk/brighton