Loani Arman is funny and fertile. In 2014, she became Sydney Fringe Comedy’s first pregnant comedian with her sold out show, Ultra-un-sound. She’s won Best Actress at Tropfest New York, appeared in ABC’s Elegant Gentleman’s Guide To Knife Fighting and was a writer/ performer on the all female sketch show, Late Night Angel Weenie Baby. Loani is currently producing and performing in LADY BITS @ Sydney Comedy Festival this May 13 & 15.
Female comedians get a bad wrap occasionally, and often talk about how rough the industry is. Do you have a take on this?
There’s no denying that women are underrepresented in comedy – as they are in many fields – but I think that it’s probably fair to say that comedians, regardless of gender, get a bad wrap. That’s the nature of our industry. Good comedy is polarising. People will either love or hate your work. There’s not often a middle ground, or if there is, it’s not something a comedian should aspire to! Mediocrity won’t get you anywhere in comedy.I’ve had a few requests from male audience members to “broaden my material” to make it funnier for men; or had people throw me that “women aren’t funny” line; or had punters ask me why “female comedians love talking about their vaginas”. (ps. It’s for the same reason men love talking about their penises. GENITALS ARE FUNNY!) There’s no use in arguing with fools so I just spend my time and energy continuing to make work I’m proud of and work that isn’t beaten down or deterred by the knowledge that some people just won’t ever appreciate it. I learned that from Tina Fey. We’re kinda besties. In my dreams.
Whilst we’re on the topic of female comedians, it has to be mentioned that there are some great comedians working in this country right now. I’m not going to list comedians that get plenty of plugs elsewhere but here’s a list of other female comedians whose work I think is pretty great and worth checking out! Loani Arman (self plug!!), Greta Lee Jackson, Susie Youssef, Celeste Barber, Hannah & Eliza Reilly, Cait Johnson, Alice Fraser, Laura Hughes, Jen Carnovale, and Elizabeth Davie.
How did you end up as stand up comedian?
I was a seriously shy kid with no friends but I had that whole ‘inner monologue’ thing going on where I’d listen and observe things going on around me, and then I’d imagine how the situation could be funnier or more interesting. So in many ways, I’ve always been a comedian in my head! In my late teens, I got into acting school at the now defunct but once great Theatre Nepean in Sydney, and learned how to finally ‘speak up’! From there I dipped my toes into comedy with a few short films and some theatre. I also won Best Actress at Tropfest New York for playing a crazy woman in Belinda King’s comedy short “The Picnic” and had a few moments on TV appearing in a few ABC comedies, but the bigger realisation that comedy was 4 eva for me, came when ABC2 commissioned some funny female friends and I to write an all female sketch show, “Late Night Angel Weenie Baby” with the amazing Craig Anderson directing and producing. Soon after that, Craig, Belinda King (one of the writers on “Late Night Angel”) and I dared each other to do a stand up comedy gig. It took three years of not doing it (I’m a procrastinator) before I finally did a show for Sydney Fringe Comedy. When I sold out those shows and loved the experience, I became a stand up addict!
You continued to do stand up during your pregnancy last year with your sold out Sydney Fringe Comedy show, ULTRA-UN-SOUND. How did pregnancy effect your act?
Well, I ended up going into labour on stage and gave birth in the theatre, so I called my baby “Comedienne” in honour of that. (That’s a lie. Never forget this readers: comedians lie for a living. Never trust a comedian!!) What did happen was that I got TERRIBLE reflux during the shows, so I always had to warn audiences that I may vomit on them. There were moments where I would have to stop, sit, drink water, turn green for a moment, then get back into the show. I also had one audience member tell me that he could see the baby moving during the show. I’m not sure if it was the baby or the tacos I’d eaten before the show that he could see, but I’m glad he had fun staring at my belly for an hour!I always say of that show, I hated the idea of doing a pre-natal class, so I did stand up comedy instead. I’m actually considering having another baby, just so I can do another show. I reckon I’ve got another 20 shows in me before I kick the bucket, so I guess that means I’m going to be a busy mum and probably featured on “A Current Affair”.
What do you do with yourself outside comedy?
Outside of comedy, I ordinarily work in television and have a background in drama commissioning and development for Showtime. However, back in 2013, my partner and I packed our bags and went backpacking overseas for five months. Halfway through, in India, I fell pregnant. At first, I thought it was a parasite, but when that parasite didn’t make me lose weight but put on weight, I realised I was pregnant. So right now, I’m a full time Mum to an excellent baby person and a full time comedian. Comedy is great in that it can slot into your life no matter what. (Again, I’m lying. I’m doing a show at the moment and working with a five month old baby is CRAY CRAY!! I can fit comedy into being a Mum, it just means that out of the five hours sleep I can get a night, I now get two.)
You’re producing and performing in a new show LADY BITS which is playing at The Sydney Comedy Festival on May 13 & 15 at The Sydney Comedy Festival. Tell us the show.
Two days after the birth of my daughter, I decided to pitch a show to the Sydney Comedy Festival. For a year now, I’ve had an idea to do a show that featured female comedians whose talent I believed in and who I felt could benefit from the exposure that being part of a festival like Sydney Comedy Festival can bring. So I’ve brought a great up and coming comedian Celeste Barber into the show, as well as sisters Hannah and Eliza Reilly, who I met when they interviewed me on FBi Radio in Sydney for my last show. Though the title suggests the show could potentially involve us taking our pants off, it’s just a play on words. A ‘bit’ in stand up comedy means a run of jokes around the one topic, so the show is literally ‘bits’ from some funny women. The format of the show I’m really proud of – although we perform individual sets, we’re all involved in the entire show at all times and it has a really great ensemble feel to it. That’s only possible because I’m working with such a great team of women. The show is really linked in to me exploring two ambitions in comedy – to further my own career as a stand up, but also to help other women do the same.
Photo credit: LADY BITS