I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with Barunka O'Shaughnessy from Beehive and I have to admit, I'm now a full-blown Barunka Fangirl. Not only is she so hilarious that she'll easily make you pee your pants, but she's also really friendly, open, and lovely to speak to. *swoon*
I asked Barunka about what it's like to be a "female" comedian, how Beehive came about, and why she hates Sex and the City. Here's what she had to say...
BitchBuzz: I know you’ve worked on a whole bunch of different comedy shows that you’ve starred in, written for or even produced – which do you like best, being in front of the camera or writing the material?
Barunka O'Shaughnessy: Um...well, I like writing, but you don’t get the same response. For my ego, I like performing so that people know what you’ve done. If I was less insecure I'd stick to the writing...maybe directing, anything that’s in the comedy realm fine by me.
Do you like writing and performing your own material, or do you prefer using material written by somebody else?
I personally find it hard performing other people’s material. I’m not much of an actress, and you don’t know what the writer’s intended. It's much more satisfying to perform my own material, I know the intention. And it’s always the holy grail for most comedian to perform their own material.
How did you get into comedy and acting? Did you go to school to specifically study comedy and acting or was it more a side project that accidentally turned into a career?
Well, I went to Cambridge University, I didn’t have the guts to do it when I was there. There were so many people doing, and I thought I couldn’t really do it, and then I did costume design and stuff like that, got to know the people involved...
I thought I must do it and go for it, because if I didn't do it I would end up being old and really bitter. I started doing the Edinburgh Festival, and I'm so glad that I did try and that I'm not going to be all bitter and old. My life’s ambition is to not die too bitter.
That's a good goal! Growing up, what female comedians did you look up to?
When I was growing up we had French and Saunders...Victoria Wood, who is sort of old fashioned but underrated, and a writer/performer, as well. Julie Waters is very funny. Just female performers like that. I didn’t get into USA comedians as much although Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder were always hilarious.
How did you meet the other girls of Beehive and how did the show come about?
Siobhan Rhodes, our producer, and Channel 4 were looking for a female sketch show. We
all knew each other anyway through Edinburgh festival and apart from Sarah, we
all come from similar background. Sarah is the only stand-up, her style of
creating jokes is invaluable, because we're all from improv backgrounds. It's such a good
mix. We learn from each other.
But, that was it, really. They put us together, had some meetings...and there was a bit of competition as we beat out a couple of
other female sketch groups had been gone for same slot.
How do you feel about Beehive being described as being “An All Female
Sketch Show” – do you like being described as a female comedian or do
you wish that everyone would just call you a comedian?
In a way I wish that we were just called comedians and that Beehive was just a comedy sketch show. But, I know that everyone has to have an angle on things, and really it's positive discrimination.
For me, I grew up with our two heads of the country being Margret Thatcher
and the Queen. Now I think I may have taken it for granted, but I just simply never thought it was odd
to have two female heads of state.
How is it working with a group of all females? Stereotypically, one would imagine there are loads of cat fights and fierce competition...
For me, just working with women, it's less competitive, and has a very different dynamic. It's more nurturing. I find I'm less confident when I'm with male performers. I don’t flourish in that - I think more women enjoy a nurturing environment.
Essentially, in its most basic form, the reason women usually compete is for the attention of a man, but if you take away the man, there’ nothing to compete over. It’s just like, I’ve always been more comfortable working with other women. It’s just the testosterone isn’t there. Well, except for maybe Kendal. She always jokes about her balls. (laughs) Her one ball...Maybe just half a ball.
My favourite sketch so far has been the Spiderman/Green Goblin sketch - what is your favourite character to play on Beehive? Or what’s been your favourite sketch?
When we filmed that Spiderman sketch I actually got in loads of trouble! The first time we shot it I didn't tell Health & Safety and I just tossed myself off the balcony after Sarah. They weren't very pleased with me...
I love it when we’re playing ourselves, apart from that, I liked being Queen Victoria and Abba. It was brilliant having a hairy chest...
We should embrace that 1970s mentality. You know, the bad teeth, bad hair, and just look a mess.
What I love about Beehive is that you guys don’t just joke about chocolate and boyfriends, there’s a huge element of potty humour - is this just stuff that you guys joke about anyway?
Basically, it’s just what we’re like. We're not interested in observational humor. That's just not our world. We don’t like Sex and the City and all the stereotypes - that’s not us at all.
Saying "bell end" will never cease to amuse me, it’s what we think is funny, it’s our world. We’re not interested in the lady stereotypes. Plus, most of those [lady stereotype] jokes are written by men! How does that reflect contemporary female thinking? I don’t think it does.
There has been a lot of talk about this with the Tina Fey, Vanity Fair story. Do you feel that in the UK there is an equal amount of pressure on Female comedians to be as thin and perfect as say, the Keira Knightleys and the Sienna Millers?
I think, weirdly, conversely you’re supposed to be fat and weird looking - then you’re allowed to be funny. But as soon as you look too pretty, it’s harder to laugh at you. If you’re too perfect looking, you’re a sex object instead of an object of amusement.
With the glamour trend... increasingly you’re supposed to look amazing and funny. We don’t really think about it too much. There were some half hearted attempts to do some squats during rehearsals once, but we’re all quite lazy, apart from Sarah - she runs like a loon! All of us don’t really conform to Hollywood ideals, it’s a shame to have to deal with it, and that it's just not enough to be funny.