London’s hilarious and refreshing comedian, Luisa Omielan is in Melbourne for this years International Comedy Festival from March 30 until April 9.
In 2015, she visited Australia as part of the Comedy Gala with her hit 4 minute video clip Thigh Gap, that accumulated over 30 million Facebook views, expanding her presence on the Australian comedy scene. Following on from her previous show What Would Beyonce do? – her hit-debut solo show from 2012 – Omielan returns to Oz with her continuance show, Am I Right Ladies?
She caught up with us for a chat to talk trilogies, improv and comedy development.
From what I understand this is your second time in Australia?
What was your first experience like here in Melbourne?
Melbourne was beautiful, but I really struggle with it and it is quite challenging because I have come from playing in London where people knew me, and I came to Melbourne, and they didn’t really know the show or me. It took a few weeks to get the audiences on board. I also found last year really stressful and quite longer a process, than when my Thigh Gap video went viral, and that was kind of amazing and I never saw that coming. Now it has kind of really helped me for the rest of the year. So it has been absolutely worth coming out here for that alone.
Can I ask tell me about the name of your new show Am I Right Ladies?
It was the follow up to What Would Beyoncé Do?, and in response to what Beyoncé would do; I would say ‘am I right ladies?’ I wanted that link and that nod to the last show. Also it’s a bit of a manifesto for me, and I am 33-year-old woman, and it is a bit of a manifesto I guess about being a woman. So Am I Right Ladies? seemed like the right title for it.
It is interesting how you devised the title from your previous show.
I like to have a trilogy sense so I want the third one to be called Famous With A Baby, and so the three of them are all linked to each other. They are stand-alone shows, you can enjoy them without seeing the other one, but they just tap in with the other one so there will be nice links there for you.
This sounds like a lot more of a longer project for you.
Not really, it just worked out that way. The first show was amazing and we had more success with it. With the second one, it was like how do I top the first show? The second one easily wrote itself, following on from What Would Beyoncé Do? I had much more I wanted to talk about. Then now doing both of them I go: “oh the third one would complete the overall narrative.”
What is intriguing about your previous performances is that you have done improvisation.
Yes when I was in Chicago, and I did improvisation over there. I did the Second City and iO [courses and workshops]. I was improvising in my sets when I first started stand up. I used to love talking to the crowd. I was never a one liner comedian. I found it difficult to sit down and write jokes. But, if I got up on up on stage and started talking to the audience it would make jokes happen. I thought ‘where can I do that?’ and so I went to Chicago for 3 months.
Improv in itself it’s a much more theatrical experience, rather than in a stand up appearance.
It’s a comedy experience. This is the thing, improv is comedy, and you see it more theatrically because it is quite naturalistic. So American improv, if your not looking at short form but long form, its all about playing the truth of the situation, and that you will find funnier. For me the most truthful comedy is the funniest. And so using those skills from improvisation and where you go looking for the truth, has definitely impacted my solo shows.
They were rules you put into the stand up set?
They were rules I put into performance, how I liked it and what I liked to talk about, so people will see my show, and say its quite theatrical. That’s because it is big, it is not just standing me there with my microphone telling joke after joke, it is more meaningful, its all relative, everything is there for a reason. That is the artistic theatrical way.
In saying that, do you have an element of writing in your show?
They are really well written shows, but they came off the back of improvising over ideas. The shows are not improvised shows, they are very much written. But in terms of getting the show in the first place came off the back of improv.
Sounds like you have had quite an experience on stage, and quite a career over in the UK. You certainly have developed an audience over there. Is it a daunting task developing audiences in a far away place like Melbourne?
Yeah it really is scary. What was lovely on my Facebook page is that it has grown in popularity. When I came to Australia last year, I had about 3,000 likes on the Facebook page. I now have got 190,000. That is just from my Thigh Gap video. Earlier today, I did a live video feed, saying I don’t know anybody in Australia yet. What was lovely is that people responded by commenting hello, and that they would come to my show. I think that is incredible and special and I love the idea of building that and hopefully I can here in Melbourne.
Are you trying to soak a little bit in to Melbourne city while you are here?
Melbourne is stunning. It was gorgeous just walking around the streets, I would love to have a few days off here and enjoy the cafes and bars. You have got so many independent retailers; it is amazing that it is not all chains. It is so refreshing to see; like in London everything is a chain. It is nice to see unique little places.
When people walk out of the door after your show finishes, what would you like them to be thinking about?
I really like when my audience leave feeling empowered, uplifted and excited for their lives.
Luisa Omielan’s Am I Right Ladies? is on at the Banquet Room at The Victoria Hotel every day except Mondays as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until the April 17. For ticket and show information visit: www.ticketmaster.com.au or here.
Thanks to Amy Bryant for her help with this interview.