According to London Hughes there’s a new generation of young exciting females that have a lot to say for themselves and they need a voice in comedy. Yes, the UK has Sarah Millican and Miranda Hart, but none of them represent young black females and their everyday life experiences – nor are they meant to.
The feisty no-nonsense tell it like it is comic says female comics are put in a box, ‘accepted’ as long as they don’t do anything crazy, don’t push any boundaries and for heaven’s sake, don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.
We caught up with the funny lady who is determined to change British protocol for comediennes. We spoke about who she’d like to work with, how she dealt with bullying, and what inspires her. But mostly we chewed the fat on recently launched second series of her YouTube comedy show, No Filter. Based on London’s real life experiences in friendship and dating, written by and starring herself, and featuring some of the UK’s hot young comedy talent. Enter London Hughes…
We just watched the trailer for No Filter but at 27 seconds it doesn’t give much away! How did No Filter come about and what we can expect in Season 2?
No Filter came out of frustration; I’d been watching a lot of American comics Amy Schumer and sketch act Broad City on Comedy Central and thought they were so cool and successful. I always wondered, what’s the UK equivalent? I then realised there were no girls doing it to that scale for the comedy scene in the UK [when London says girls – she means women in their mid-20s] and I needed to do something to change all that. Don’t get me wrong, we have female comedy heroes like Catherine Tate, Miss Jocelyn, Miranda Hart, Sarah Millican and so on. But no one reflecting the lives of younger women and the experiences they’re having.
I started writing and knew I wanted to write for me and women like me. There’s a tendency for writers to what they think television broadcasters want, instead of writing what’s really going to resonate with an audience and make them laugh. No Filter is young, sexy, loud, and honest! You can expect a lot of funny situations, which all really happened or are inspired by true events in my life.
Why 25 episodes?
I started with 10 first and then another 15 spilled out. I’d just turned 25 and I thought hey that’s it, 25! I had so many sketch ideas, I couldn’t help myself!
Which episode was your favourite to create?
I wrote an episode called ‘Gok’ it stars Gok Wan and it’s a take on his show ‘How to Look Good Naked’ I was laughing my head off. I can’t wait to film it.
You’ve done a lot of children’s television, starting with you presenting the morning show on CBBC. Will our children see more of you on their screens in the future?
Presenting kids’ TV was something I’d always wanted to achieve when I was younger, I actually based my whole entry into the industry on children’s BBC presenter Angelica Bell. I found out she got a degree in broadcast journalism, so I tried to get a degree in broadcast journalism! Funnily enough I got offered the job at CBBC two years into my course, before I’d even graduated! You also do a lot of stand-up comedy, which we’ve read is your favourite performance style.
Do you have any gigs coming up?
I love stand up, I’m writing my first one woman show at the moment, it’s a massive piece with comedy combined with drama and dance based on my life and thoughts whilst working in the industry. Writing is taking up most of my time, so no stand up shows coming up this minute but watch this space in 2017!
Your first feature film role was in It’s a Lot written and directed by Femi Oyeniran of Kidulthood and Adulthood, what was it like working with Femi?
Femi is a good friend so when he offered me the role it was a yes straight away. There’s a lot of competitiveness in the UK film industry amongst writers and directors, and sometimes that competitiveness can cloud creativity. Getting the creative right is tough. Working on It’s a Lot was tough! Femi did an amazing job – there’s so much pressure when writing directing and producing your own film. The cast was brilliant.
Which producers, writers or comediennes inspired you when you were starting out?
I used to watch Richard Blackwood all the time. I was such a big fan – I still am. I remember he walked past my school once and I totally lost it, now I’ve gigged all over the country with him. It’s so weird when you look back at events that have happened to where you are now! Miss Jocelyn is another big inspiration of mine, my friends in school used to always say to me ‘you’re just like Miss Jocelyn’. I think she’s awesome. As is Lenny Henry, he was a massive inspiration for me. Taking it stateside I loved Richard Pryor, Steve Harvey, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling and of course Tina Fey.
If you could work with anyone in the world of comedy today who would it be?
Judd Apatow he produced the film Knocked Up and series Girls by Lena Dunham. The absolute dream would be to have him produce my sitcom, and then for me to play lead in one of his movies!
Are there gender or race specific challenges female comedians face?
Just speaking from being a black woman in this industry, it means we’re usually last in the pecking order, alongside actresses in the Asian community. There are literally no roles for funny Asian girls! A few years ago I realised the roles I’d been going for had all been for characters that had names that end in ‘sha’… You know the Keisha’s, Talisha’s, characters written as a loud gobby, uneducated black girl, and that isn’t me. There are no comedy roles that reflect the true lives and personalities of everyday women of colour. I think the issue is the majority of predominantly white male writers feel like they can’t write roles for black women or black men… I’m trying to squash this false stereotype. Another challenge is a lot of people often say to me, ‘you’re funny for a woman’! What does that even mean? Being funny isn’t resigned to one gender! It’s even worse when women say it to me!
Have you always been funny?
Always! My dad and brother are massive jokers so I get my sense of humour from them. I used to make all my school friends laugh on coach trips and in talent shows. I found out from an early age that being funny kept the bullies away too. No one’s going to hit you if you’re making them roll around with laughter.
So you were bullied at school?
I was bullied in secondary school and at university, I found it hard to stand up to bullies, I was really insecure. But doing stand-up comedy helped me a lot, it gave me courage, confidence and ultimately helped me find my worth. I owe everything to comedy.
What advice would you give to women from diverse backgrounds who are interested in comedy whether writing producing or performing?
Never let anyone tell you who you can or can’t be, invest in yourself and do you to the best of your ability.