It has been no joke fending off the posh boys and sleazy promoters...
Tiff Stevenson, standing up for women performers, vows to cheer us all with her online show, says Garry Bushell
BY RIGHTS,TIFFANY Stevenson should be in America right now. “I looked in my diary and realised I was supposed to be performing to TV networks in the US,” the comedian tells me. “It’s disappointing, but I imagine it’ll still be there.”
Hard-working Tiff hasn’t lost a moment’s sleep over the setback, throwing herself into Zoom comedy shows, podcasts and her own Old Rope Comedy Club on Instagram.this month she has a 50-minute show on the Nextupvirtual Comedy Festival.
Tiff is a veteran of panel shows like Mock The Week and comedies including The Office, Gameface and People Just Do Nothing. But her rise to fame wasn’t easy. She had her own Weinstein moment early on.
“I met someone to talk about a TV show,” she says. “He had a way of making you think you had to go along with his suggestions or you were being unprofessional. I was 18.
“We met for coffee and he said, ‘Come back to mine to watch this pilot... if you want to be taken seriously, you have to come back’.”
There the creep upped the ante. “He gave me a robe and said, ‘I think we should have a sauna in robes’. I put it on over all of my clothes and got into the sauna and talked relentlessly.
“I was young but I wasn’t dumb. Eventually he asked for a massage. Nothing happened, I was totally fine.”it wasn’t uncommon. “You’d get to a gig, there’d be a sleazy promoter, the accommodation he’d promised is his house and you find yourself having awkward conversations at 1am over a cup of coffee.wait, is this a professional situation or a date?”
Tiff’s upbringing helped keep her safe and sane. “I come from quite a rough area ofwest London,” she says. “You know the area’s rough when the shops sell maternity hot pants... in leopard print.”
Her father was Scottish Presbyterian, her mother’s father was Welsh. “And my grandfather was Romany. Quite a mix... quite a clash.”
HER father, who sang in a band, briefly managedwembley Stadium.as a small child she remembers sitting on Annie Lennox’s lap as she applied her stage make-up.that life didn’t last. “My dad left Wembley when I was 11 and I went to a comp.”
At school,tiff was always “gobby,” she says. “I saw myself as questioning. I got thrown out of an English class for asking ‘Why, why, why’ repeatedly.”
She got an A-star in English despite turning up 20 minutes late for the GCSE exam. “I thought at 16 it was more important to see my boyfriend,” she says. Pregnant at 17, she opted for an abortion.
Tiff, now 41, did ballet from the age of four to 16. “I had a bit of a meltdown in my ballet exam. It was the same time as I was doing my GCSES. I forgot all my moves and never went back.”
Acting came next. Her first TV booking was for a Crimewatch reconstruction with Liberty X’s Michelle Heaton. “We had a fight scene, but the director had never shot one before so we ended up just fighting. It ended with me screaming and running away... I think that was my role for three years.”
She ventured into comedy by creating a character, Savannah Dior, who told stories about the famous people she’d slept with. It was going well until the night she played Alexander’s Jazz Bar in Chester.
“The traffic was diabolical. I got there late and they made me headline to a room full of angry Scousers who were just heckling.
“I was so not prepared... I fled the stage in tears after 10 minutes. It might not even have been that long.
“That’s when I realised I need to have my own voice, rather than be trapped in character.”
Entertaining agricultural students was worse. “It was full of posh boys who didn’t relate to my routine on teenage pregnancy. In the middle of the show, two rugby players walked in naked. One got on stage... no one did a thing.”
Tiff is refreshingly chippy about class. “I find working-class men have more respect for funny women. The people I have problems with are posh men in their 50s.
“Class is more valid than ever now. Feminism is dominated by middle-class women, as are all of the arts, and comedy is top-heavy with Oxbridge graduates.”
She’s best known here for her acting. “People normally shout ‘Tanya!’ at me. I’ve played two Tanyas, one on Gameface and one in People Just Do Nothing. I’m amazed I get recognised from that because I had a big hair weave. People know my face...”
Her character Bridget Trump was also a hit. “I noticed that Trump tweets like Bridget Jones, a 32-year-old singleton, with random capital letters, everyone’s ‘nasty’ and ‘mean’. I set up a Bridget Trump account and it went viral in the US.
“Nigel Farage was her Mark Darcy... I stopped because I was getting referred to as a satirist which I’m not. Besides, Trump’s so self-satirising it’s hard to top.”
Tiff’s one-woman shows have made her a force to be reckoned, beginning with 2010’s Dictators “on Hitler, Mugabe, Mussolini, OK! magazine and my mum,” and building up to last year’s Mothers – about being a stepmother. She performed it at sell-out shows in New York, LA and San Francisco.
‘Working-class men have respect for funny women’
On stage she’ll flash an impish smile and say “At my age men still approach me, but it’s to get around me”.
But in reality Tiff lives happily with her Scottish boyfriend Paul and his son in North London.
“He makes the coffee, he does all the cooking,” she laughs. “He’d say my worst qualities are I over-cook things and I over-think things. My best is probably my fortitude.”
She relaxes by bird-watching. “I love it, especially birds of prey. I do it on nature walks. I do audio postcards too, recording the sounds on my phone wherever I go.”
Although possibly not outside Muswell Hill private schools, with their “selfish, entitled mums with kids who just run into people”.
Tiff has compered the Old Rope
Comedy Club, off London’s Regent Street, for 14 years and now hosts it on Instagram each Monday.
Each show reaches thousands of people around the world. She has a Youtube channel too.
“I treat it like a gig, I do my make-up, I’m properly dressed... people seem to love it.
“I think it’s the responsibility of comedians in times like this to be able to lift the spirits of a nation. Laughter is the best medicine, apart from actual medicine which is even better, especially if you’ve got corona.”
● Nextup Virtual Comedy Festival (nextupcomedy. com/festival)runs all month with Tiff’s show on July 18
‘In the middle of the show, two rugby players walked in naked’