THE LAST WORD… Gilli Apter

Co­me­dian Gilli, 36, on how she started out in stand-up, work­ing with Trevor Noah, and what it’s like to be a woman in the in­dus­try

Essentials (South Africa) - - CONTENTS JANUARY 2019 -

My love of com­edy be­gan at an early age be­cause I wanted to get a re­ac­tion out of peo­ple. I can find the hu­mour in any­thing. It’s an in­stinct of mine that I don’t think I fully recog­nised as a kid. At home, be­ing funny was al­ways val­ued; we would watch a lot of come­dies, clas­sics like Na­tion­alLam­poon and Steve Martin movies, and both my par­ents are funny so it def­i­nitely runs in the fam­ily.

It was my friends who pushed me to get on stage. I stud­ied film di­rect­ing but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to make a liv­ing from be­ing a com­edy film di­rec­tor. I branched into com­edy writ­ing, help­ing comics cre­ate their sets.

I wanted to try stand-up for my­self but I just didn’t have the guts to do it. Once my co­me­dian friends re­alised I was in­ter­ested in per­form­ing, they kept en­cour­ag­ing me to try. Fi­nally, I worked up the courage to do it and my only re­gret is that it took me so long!

There’s a big mis­con­cep­tion about be­ing a com­edy writer. Peo­ple as­sume you write a list of jokes and hand them to the co­me­dian to read, but it doesn’t work like that. It’s a col­lab­o­ra­tive craft­ing process and you have to work on the ma­te­rial from the comic’s per­spec­tive to keep it per­sonal. Af­ter per­form­ing, other comics will of­ten come up to you and share ideas on how to im­prove your set.

Be­ing se­lected by Trevor Noah for his show, Na­tion­wild, was the big­gest com­pli­ment. Trevor chose 13 lo­cal comics whom he felt were promis­ing up-and- com­ers. In each episode, he in­tro­duces and in­ter­views one of us be­fore we take the stage for our set, where we per­formed for 1 000 peo­ple. Af­ter­wards, he gave us com­pli­ments and crit­i­cism. We were lucky just to be ex­posed to his au­di­ence, let alone get feed­back from an in­ter­na­tional pro­fes­sional comic, who started out like us. It was an in­cred­i­ble gift.

Lindy John­son, Noko Moswete and I are the only fe­male co­me­di­ans on Na­tion­wild. Com­edy is a very male­dom­i­nated space. There are ben­e­fits to be­ing fe­male – you stand out – but it’s still dif­fi­cult as you can feel like a real out­sider.

I try to rally as many fe­male comics around me as pos­si­ble. Nina Hastie, Clau­dine Ull­man and I have an allfe­male show called TheThun­der­birds. We’ve cre­ated a space where we do the work we want and sup­port each other. It gives us the free­dom to de­velop our ma­te­rial, and to in­spire other women, which the in­dus­try needs. I wish I’d been ex­posed to more fe­male comics to en­cour­age me to do this sooner.

✱ Watch Gilli on Trevor Noah Presents Na­tion­wild, avail­able on Show­max

I wanted to try stand-up but I didn’t have the guts

Gilli af­ter her se t on Trevor Noah Pre­sen ts Na tion­wild

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