Samantha Baines is certainly at a very exciting point in her career. A Funny Women Award finalist in 2014 and winner of the What the Frock Awards in 2015, Baines is gaining the recognition for her stand-up that she so deserves. I can certainly see why as I meet her in a trendy coffee-shop in North London; her easy manner and sharp wit are clear to see, even if she is sporting a sprained ankle after a run-in with a Soho pothole. Baines’ schedule is jam-packed at present: she hosts two radio shows, writes for the Huffington Post and us currently developing her Edinburgh show with Helen Sorren, all whilst juggling this flourishing stand-up career. Her first film for cinema release, A Royal Night Out has also been recently released and is showing now. She was kind enough, however, to take some time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with me about all of the above.
Catch Sam on Hoxton Radio in her show Ladies What Brunch every Saturday from noon and on Wandsworth Radio every Thursday from 1pm until 4pm.
Her Edinburgh show Sam and Helen Out There will be at Just the Tonic in the Caves for the majority of the festival at 6.20pm. More information can be found here: http://edinburgh.justthetonic.com/performances.php?eventId=88:529
CP: So you’re a lady of many talents and have a number of varying projects at the moment, but what is it that draws you to stand-up as a form in particular?
SB: I trained as an actor; I’ve been acting for seven years and I started doing a lot of comedy roles and always enjoyed making people laugh .Then I had a sketch group called “Vinegar Knickers” and we did a couple of Edinburghs. I’d always been interested in stand-up but been a bit scared of it because I thought “I’m an actor, I couldn’t possibly”. Then, one day, I was like “I’m just gonna do it”, so I did a weekend course with Laughing Horse who make you do your first gig at the end. I really enjoyed it and kept doing it. I guess what I like about is that, compared to acting in which you’re reliant upon other people a lot of the time, like the writer to have the script and you to be right for the part etc., in stand-up, I can literally write some jokes now and go to a gig and tell them. It’s so immediate.
CP: In that regard, do you find it quite exposing that it’s no longer someone else’s words but your own?
SB: Yeah, totally. And that’s one of the scariest things about it. If they don’t laugh, they just don’t like you. When you’re actor you can say “oh it’s the script” or “the director made me do it!”, whereas, with stand-up, it’s all on you. I always used to read my play reviews and, if they didn’t like it, I would be upset but just think they didn’t like the play. With stand-up, it’s “no they didn’t like me”. There is more pressure, but there is also more reward. It does feel amazing to make a whole room of people laugh and think “I wrote that and I delivered that”.
CP: What can readers expect from your stand-up?
SB: Well for Edinburgh, I’m actually writing about the universe. I write for Huffington Post Comedy and I wrote a poem for Brian Cox. I tweeted it to him everyday for five days and he didn’t retweet it, favourite it or reply to it at all so I was like “right, I’m gonna get you”, so I’m learning all about the stars and planets so that when I inevitably meet him by chance in Edinburgh, I’ve got all this amazing knowledge. Then I can say “remember, when you didn’t read my poem? Well now I know all the things that you know.” Before I think I was known for slightly blue material and I do like to do slightly darker stuff. When you’re doing club gigs around London for the Saturday night crowd, you do some of the dirtier stuff. But the science stuff for Edinburgh is done in a silly way so you don’t have to have much specific knowledge. I’m doing it with my comic partner, Helen Sorren, who I also do my Hoxton Radio show with, which is called Ladies What Brunch. We’re each doing fifteen minutes of stand-up on “Out There” so mine is “Out There in the Universe”, whereas Helen’s is being “out there” by being more bold and trying things out. So that fifteen minutes is being made better as we speak.
CP: Are there any comics that you would say are particular influences?
SB: Yeah, I love Sarah Silverman but she goes way darker than I go. I’m not brave enough to go that far. I really like that she’s happy and smiley and cutesy but then she says this really dark, sometimes out-of-the-blue stuff. She does a great set saying that she loves cheese so much that she wants to have sex with it and then she acts out having sex with cheese. I think that’s amazing because I’m lactose intolerant and I love cheese so I feel like I want to have sex with cheese but I can’t otherwise I get bloated. I also really love Lee Evans because I like really physical and character based stuff. I do quite a lot of voices in my stand-up and act characters out but not the Lee Evans sweaty extent. If only.
CP: A lot of people have said that women aren’t funny, but people’s attitudes seem to be changing. Do you agree with this from what you’ve observed as a woman on the circuit or is there still some disparity between male and females?
SB: There’s definitely still more male comics but there’s more and more women starting comedy. it’s becoming more accessible and I think women interested in comedy are seeing more females and thinking “okay, that’s something I could do”. Most of the time I will still be the only woman on a comedy bill, though. So in that way, i don’t get to see a lot of other female comedians, whereas I’m sure men wouldn’t find it weird for it to be an all male night. Some clubs will just book funny people and it doesn’t matter if there’s five women, they’re just trying to make a good night for their audience. Other clubs will just book one woman and that’ll be it until the next month. I’ve also come across some really horrible things being a woman. If there’s a group of male comics, they’ll be having chats about comedy and it can sometimes be difficult to break that barrier down and say “let’s just all chat because we’re people”. Normally audiences are really supportive. Some gigs you sense they go “oh god, it’s a woman” and you feel you have to prove yourself. But mainly horrible comments I’ve had have come from other comics or promoters who are male. They tend to be the old fashioned sort of type. For example, a promoter made a joke to the other comedians that he always remembers the woman with the big tits. And, as you can see, it’s not as if they’re shockingly big, they’re just there. And that was after I’d won a competition against all of them.
CP: So what do you think the next steps we need to be taking are to overcome this divide?
SB: First of all, if any women want to do it [stand-up], they should absolutely do it. Actually all the female comedians are really supportive of one another and a lot of male comedians are also just as supportive and absolutely book women at their gigs and really enjoy watching women. There’s just this proportion that seem to be in the “man club” so we need to be encouraging women to do it and also just all love and support each other. Stand-up is incredibly competitive in a way that acting isn’t; I would say that the latter is a much more supportive industry and we should try and make comedy the same. And just because an audience really laughed at one person, we should also support all the other people that didn’t get quite so many laughs. Everyone brings a different style, which we should embrace. Sometimes if you go down really well, you can be punished. In that instance, we just need to go “Well done, good job”. It has no reflection on me, it means you’re good, I’ll go and do my thing now.
CP: What would be your once piece of advice for a new comic?
SB: Just do it… You know what you have to do. You have to go and write jokes and make people laugh. We can get caught up in all of these things like “what’s my voice? What’s my persona? How should i hold the mic? Should all my material be about one thing?”. All of that is important and will come with time. But, when you start out, just write loads of jokes and do them and the ones that people laugh at, make more of them, get rid of the other ones. All of the rest of the stuff will come.
CP: And finally, you’re in A Royal Night Out, a new film about the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret leaving Buckingham Place on VE night, starring the likes of Rupert Everett, Emily Watson Sarah Gadon and Jack Reynor. What was it like working with such an illustrious cast?
SB: It was amazing. So I have scenes with Sarah, whose done Dracula Untold, and Jack, whose been in Transformers. They were really professional but also really nice and welcoming. Sometimes if you only go in for a few days filming as I did, relationships have already been made and it’s hard to feel included in the group, but they were so lovely. And Bel Powley, who is really funny as Princess Margaret, is really great as well. We had some amazing chats in costume. She loves puns so I was telling her mine. Also it’s very rare, but it’s getting more nowadays, that you see a strong female lead that is funny throughout. I know people aren’t sure about the portrayal of Princess Margaret and whether it’s sending her up but, putting that aside, Bel has great comic timing and she plays a very funny role. It was lovely seeing how her performance translated onto the big screen, and seeing how the rest of the film turned out. It made it feel more real and exciting. We filmed it last year, so it’s been quite a quick turnaround for a feature film. But, even so, we had to wait for all of the edits and post production. I saw it in Leicester Square Odeon, and it sunk in that “Oh, I’m in the cinema, this is quite nice”. It’s getting really nice press. And also it’s really nice to have a film with two strong female leads.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @samanthabaines
Check out her website: www.samanthabaines.com