Swipe right for Mae Martin

Diva (UK) - - Culture -

“So, funny thing...” I hes­i­tate, search­ing for the most pro­fes­sional way to say this. Then I re­alise there is no pro­fes­sional way to bring up the fact you once al­most hooked up with your in­ter­vie­wee, so I just blurt it out in­stead. “A cou­ple of years ago, we matched on Tin­der.”

Mae and I are sit­ting op­po­site each other in a north London cafe do­ing an in­ter­view for DIVA and si­mul­ta­ne­ously hav­ing one of the most un­usual Tin­der dates I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced. Be­fore you as­sume I’m an ob­ses­sive stalker abus­ing my power to ac­cess hot queer celebs, I should point out that I’m now loved up with some­one I didn’t meet on Tin­der. (It was Gay­dar­girls.com –I cast a wide net.)

Mae’s re­sponse when I drop the T-bomb is to put her head in her hands and ex­claim, “This keeps hap­pen­ing to me!” Say what, now? Ex­actly how much right-swip­ing is she do­ing? “It’s hap­pened once re­cently. This is so funny. I won­der if I could find you.” She reaches for her phone and, shame-faced at my own brazen on­line se­duc­tion tech­nique, I beg her not to, stop­ping just short of pris­ing the mo­bile out of her hands.

It’s not ex­actly the most ro­man­tic date I’ve ever been on – it’s 11am on a Thurs­day and her PR is at the next table – but it is one of the fun­ni­est. On­stage, Cana­dian-born/ Lon­don­based Mae is a mild-man­nered com­edy sprite, be­guil­ing au­di­ences with her self- con­scious vul­ner­a­bil­ity, be­fore de­light­ing them with a killer punch­line. IRL, she has that same dis­arm­ing hon­esty and quirky sense of hu­mour.

“Why didn’t we meet up?” she wants to know. “I think you just weren’t that into me, Mae.” “I’m sure I was. But if it was a cou­ple of years ago I’d just bro­ken up with my ex. I would have been in the throes of de­s­pair. I didn’t fol­low through on many app in­ter­ac­tions be­cause I was still hung up.”

We swap sto­ries of find­ing our­selves post-break-up in the on­line dat­ing wilder­ness. “It’s the worst feel­ing, isn’t it?” she in­ti­mates. “You get that weird phan­tom limb syn­drome.”

The same break-up that drove her to dat­ing apps in­spired last year’s hit show Us, which earned her rave re­views and a Ra­dio 4 se­ries. In Mae Martin’s Guide to 21st Cen­tury Sex­u­al­ity she tack­les the slip­pery topic of sex­ual flu­id­ity.

“We’re mov­ing to­wards a time when we won’t have to la­bel sex­u­al­ity and be so tribal,” sug­gests Mae. “I’ve al­ways dated men and women, and I wanted to wave the ban­ner for bi­sex­ual peo­ple be­cause there’s a lot of era­sure. The prob­lem isn’t us la­belling our sex­u­al­ity, it’s when other peo­ple la­bel it for you.”

Ever since her first stand-up re­view re­ferred to her as “Gay Mae”, crit­ics and au­di­ences alike have made as­sump­tions about her sex­ual pro­cliv­i­ties. “For years I had the pre­fix to my name of ‘les­bian co­me­dian’, but that isn’t how I iden­tify.” Even her friends were shocked when, newly sin­gle, she ca­su­ally men­tioned she was dat­ing men as well as women. “You lied,” they told her. “You lied with your hair.”

Her an­drog­y­nous ap­pear­ance means she’s used to cer­tain au­di­ences not know­ing what to make of her. “When I walk on­stage at a club in cen­tral London on a Satur­day night and ev­ery­one’s drunk, I can feel this pal­pa­ble ten­sion. I have to dis­pel it right away and joke that I look like Justin Bieber so they can all re­lax.”

ROXY BOUR­DIL­LON GOES ON A LONG OVER­DUE TIN­DER DATE WITH ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE STAND-UP COMEDIANS “For years I had the pre­fix of ‘les­bian co­me­dian’, but that isn’t how I iden­tify”

Watch­ing Mae at a gig a few nights be­fore we meet, I’m struck by how re­fresh­ing it is to see a comic speak so can­didly (and hi­lar­i­ously) about her sex­u­al­ity. “It’s al­ways gonna be part of my ma­te­rial be­cause it’s part of who I am. You know when peo­ple are like, ‘ Why do gay comics al­ways have to talk about be­ing gay?’ They’re just talk­ing about their lives. If a straight male comic is talk­ing about his love life we’re not like, ‘ Why’s he talk­ing about be­ing straight?’”

Mae was sur­prised that Us af­fected so many au­di­ence mem­bers, some of whom emailed to thank her for speak­ing out. “It’s dif­fer­ent here. Not to be a downer on Eng­land, but in Canada it’s about 10 years ahead. There’s a lot more peo­ple who iden­tify as fluid. Even my straight friends in Toronto don’t iden­tify as straight. They’re like, ‘I’m queer. I might meet a woman at any point.’ Peo­ple are post-la­bels over there.”

Her on­stage hon­esty isn’t the only thing that prompts a pas­sion­ate re­ac­tion from her fans. When she made a joke about erotic Harry Pot­ter fan fic­tion dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on Rus­sell Howard’s Good News, she dis­cov­ered a whole com­mu­nity ded­i­cated to Hog­warts themed porn-lit. “I’ve never done any­thing that’s ig­nited more. Peo­ple were like, ‘ Yes, fi­nally some­one’s talk­ing about our thing!’ I’m read­ing it pre­tend­ing to be ironic, but se­cretly so turned on.” Her niche? “Any­thing with Bel­la­trix Les­trange. There’s some weird in­ter-species stuff, which I’m not into. I can’t get on board with a house elf. I can get on board with a cen­taur, like a re­ally fit cen­taur.”

So apart from Bel­la­trix and smok­ing hot cen­taurs, who else would Mae swipe right for? In her new show Dope, a con­fes­sional hour about her ad­dic­tive per­son­al­ity, she rem­i­nisces about her teenage crush on Bette Mi­dler in Hocus Po­cus. My girl­friend sat next to me at the pre­view and when Mae said she fan­cied “buxom, vi­va­cious women”, which would have been a crack­ing Tin­der pro­file for me, she went all al­pha, grip­ping her arm around me ter­ri­to­ri­ally. Luck­ily the rest of the au­di­ence were obliv­i­ous to my other half’s min­imelt­down be­cause they were too rapt by Mae’s com­edy gems.

I tell Mae I too was a Hocus Po­cus devo­tee, but my weak­ness was Sarah Jes­sica Parker. “Oh yeah, rid­ing that broom­stick. She’s so se­duc­tive. That

“In Canada there’s a lot more peo­ple who iden­tify as fluid. Peo­ple are post- la­bels over there”

whole film was boner town, for sure. I’m def­i­nitely drawn to strong, funny women. Con­fi­dence is so hot.”

She feels a lit­tle dif­fer­ently when it comes to guys. “I don’t like a dude – a big, con­fi­dent, loud man. Nah, tone it down. Maybe it’s a so­ci­etal thing. When men are be­ing big and loud I’m like, ‘Chill, you’ve had it for cen­turies.’”

Mae’s won­dered if her own sex­ual flu­id­ity could in­cor­po­rate polyamory. “I thought it would be kind of ideal be­cause I like men, women and at­ten­tion, but I’m too ro­man­tic. I’m al­ways go­ing to get jeal­ous. I want to feel so safe. It’s scary be­ing a sin­gle mil­len­nial.”

De­spite hav­ing played the on­line dat­ing field for the past cou­ple of years, Mae in­sists she’s “a se­rial monogamist, is that the ex­pres­sion?” She ad­mits, “I have a ten­dency to re­ally make my life about some­one else.” In her new show she ex­plores how her break-up “felt so much like get­ting off drugs. Why do we feel like it’s our whole sense of self and it’s this trau­matic event?”

Dope also finds laughs in her un­usual start in the com­edy in­dus­try. She was just 13 when she did her first standup gig. “I brought a cig­a­rette on­stage and peo­ple were hor­ri­fied. I thought peo­ple would just be like, ‘Oh, it’s an­other co­me­dian’ and that would in­spire con­fi­dence. So wrong, so wrong.”

She’s come a long way since that first gig. She’s tak­ing Dope to the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val this sum­mer and go­ing on her first UK tour in au­tumn. And that’s just for starters. She’s cur­rently record­ing a sec­ond se­ries for Ra­dio 4, and has a DVD, a Com­edy Cen­tral spe­cial and a sit­com pilot in the pipe­line. She’s even writ­ing a book about sex­u­al­ity – “a com­bi­na­tion of me­moir and so­cial com­men­tary, it’s meant to be the book you wish you had when you were 14.”

“I feel pretty ex­cited about work right now so I’m kind of chan­nelling into that. Is that healthy? Become a worka­holic in­stead?” It may be an­other ad­dic­tion, but at least it’s a pro­duc­tive one. It’s won­der­ful to see Mae’s ca­reer in as­cen­dance. Her sex­u­al­ity may be fluid, but her tal­ent is ir­refutable.

See Mae Martin: Dope tour­ing the UK from Septem­ber and at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val, 3-27 Au­gust. Find out more at mae­martin.net

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