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One of OFTV‘s most popular recent original series is the ‘Creative Fund: Comedy Edition‘, with celebrity comedian judges including London Hughes. The series welcomed 10 up-and-coming comedians to pursue their comedy careers and compete to win £100,000 (approximately $124,000 USD), the biggest ever cash prize for a UK comedy competition.
Series winner Mary O’Connell is a name you’d better keep on your “one to watch” list, as you’ll see after watching her on the show. Her performance style is a mix of observational annoyance combined with a left-field view of the world that makes for hilarious and sometimes absurd material. Alongside her comedy career, Mary is a writer and has written for The Emily Atack Show on ITV2 and The Now Show on Radio 4.
She is currently performing a run of shows across the UK, and we are keeping our fingers crossed she will make it across the pond in the near future. Mary recently appeared on Comedy Central UK, and this year she will be bringing her show ‘Money Princess’ to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August – a hallowed ground and rite of passage for many global comedians.
After winning ‘Creative Fund: Comedy Edition’, we had the chance to speak with the British babe about being a woman of color in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by white men, and why writing jokes that punch-down on minority groups make you unfunny and offensive.
Where did your love of comedy come from, and where did your career begin?
Both my parents have really great taste in comedy so I watched a bunch of TV shows with them. I’d wanted to do stand up for ages and I actually did a few gigs when I was 17 for a school project. My first gig was at a bookshop that also ran events like comedy nights.
What is the comedy scene in London like, and what was it like navigating the industry there?
It’s great because there is such a broad variety, so many different types of comedy can succeed and be appreciated in London. You have your alternative nights, your queer nights, your mainstream nights. Navigating the industry is a bit more difficult. It does feel a bit like comedy is full so you do really have to make sure your stuff is memorable and you stand out.
You are the winner of OFTV’s original series ‘Creative Fund: Comedy Edition’. What was this experience like for you, and what did you love most about the series?
The experience was wild. I came to it so last minute it was a lot to process. The stakes were higher than anything I’ve ever done before and the pressure definitely got to me. I loved bonding with the other contestants the most and also the money.
OnlyFans has become an increasingly popular platform for many creators and artists. What made you want to jump on the platform and grow your audience here?
I think just the fact that you can be in complete control of your own content is a great factor. Sometimes when you do TV or other digital work, the final edit may not be the thing that you really envisioned so OnlyFans is a great way to put power back into the hands of creators.
How can platforms like this give up and coming comedians and artists a chance to enter the industry?
It sounds kind of simple but money is a big motivator. When people get paid for work that for so long they’ve done for free, that really changes things, you start to think about what your career would look like when you’re able to be successful from doing your passion. I think by doing more competitions and showcases are a fantastic way to bring in up and coming talent.
Over the past few years we’re finally seeing more women, women of color especially, land some pretty big comedy specials on major networks and streaming platforms. What are your thoughts on seeing more diversity finally?
I think it’s great. Representation is so important. It’s so important to see someone who looks like you, be successful in the thing that you want to be successful in. I think comedy as an industry is really hard to get into, especially when you don’t necessarily feel entitled to that world. I think women and women of color especially have been conditioned not to feel entitled, or to ask for less. Comedy is so empowering because you’re literally demanding people’s attention. When I see women of color owning a stage it makes me feel empowered too.
Why is representation important in the comedy world?
When you have more representation, it basically says to people, you can be in this world too. It makes something that was once exclusive, inclusive. Also it makes everything way funnier when you have people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles.
As a comedian, how do you balance the need to push the envelope, while also being mindful of the fact that a number of comedians are being cancelled for punching down on minority groups etc?
I think a lot of the time when we say someone has been cancelled, they really are just facing the consequences of their actions. It’s pretty easy to be funny and not punch down at minority groups. I totally think that comedians walk a line that does push boundaries but you have to be able to do it with nuance and quality humor. I think the most offensive jokes are offensive and also unfunny.
What would be your ultimate gig – a movie? your own TV series? a comedy special? podcast? You tell us! Manifest it for us here:
I would love to be a showrunner on my own TV show. I love writing as well as performing so I’d love to create a TV series that really speak to a cultural moment i’m passionate about, and have that be a show that everyone talks about and refers to when they think about a brilliant show.
If there is one thing you want to be known for in your career, and one thing you want people to immediately think about when they hear the name Mary O’Connell’, what would it be?
I want people to think I’m a hilarious genius, haha!