Interview: Lockdown Rarely Asked Questions Special – Janine Harouni

Interview: Lockdown Rarely Asked Questions Special – Janine Harouni

2019 was a great year for Janine Harouni. The London-based New Yorker won the BBC Radio 4 Comedy Award, the Amused Moose Comedy Award and was shortlisted for Best Newcomer in the Dave Edinburgh Comedy Awards. 2020 was, well, not quite so good in terms of competitions and we all know why. But Harouni's online work solo and with sketch group Muriel has done well and she recently landed a part in Iain Stirling's new ITV2 flatshare sitcom Buffering, so hopefully 2021 will be ace for this bright rising star. Harouni is the latest subject in our daily interviews with the class of 2019 a year on from the first lockdown. Read about her year below. 

Follow Janine Harouni on Twitter here: @janineharouni @murielcomedy and on Instagram here and here.

 

How has the last year been for you?

It’s been a real rollercoaster. Some days I’m like it’s great to have this time to slow down and learn embroidery and other days I can’t get out of bed and cry because world’s a mess and my industry is dead while shoveling fist fulls of cheese into my mouth listening to Baz Lerman’s Suncreen Song on repeat. 

But also my sketch trio Muriel (along with our director/my fiancée Andrew Nolan) released  a sketch called She’s Asking For It which ended up getting 60 million views - not sure that would have happened if literally everyone on the planet wasn’t sat at home in front of their computers all day. So swings and roundabouts. 

When was your last pre-Covid gig?

The last gig I did pre covid was Sophie Duker’s Wacky Racists at 21 Soho - she came out in a hazmat suit and this giant mask. Which we all found hilarious. It was a great night, the audience were all really up for it. The next day I woke up and my boyfriend had covid symptoms, so it was a huge reality check that actually this thing we were all joking about might be serious.  

How have you coped financially? (did you do any non-comedy work?)

I do a lot of voice over work which has been good this past year, cause you can work remotely and also studios are pretty covid secure as you’re on your own in there. I was lucky that before covid I was cast in a video game called Haven. Although during the summer lockdown I spent two weeks recording under a makeshift duvet tent in my bedroom. It was during a heatwave and I was sat in what was essentially a sweat lodge, like a VO shaman for 2 weeks.  

Did you get much government/arts council etc financial support?

I qualify for the government’s self employment income support scheme. So that check (editor - Janine is American in case you didn't know, hence the spelling) coming every few months has been a massive help. 

Do you feel comedy has been let down by government/arts council?

Funding tended to favour venues that did more than just comedy. It seems like certain venues that exclusively did comedy were denied the funding they desperatly needed  - like the Frog and Bucket in Manchester. 

Do you think comedy is an art?

Look some people do comedy and it’s so good it’s art and some people do art and it’s so bad it’s comedy. So I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about what is or isn’t art.

But I do know that making a group of strangers laugh isn’t easy. It’s terrifying and brutal and difficult to get right. I’ve heard alot of comics compare it to sports, but I think comedy’s more like dance. Professional dancers make incredibly difficult manuvers look easy. It’s the same with stand up. The art is in hiding the work so that it looks effortless - the problem then is that people assume it is.

Were you planning to do Edinburgh Fringe 2020?

I was planning on doing a WIP and a short run of my previous year’s show in a bigger venue before taking it to the States. 

Do you think there will be a Fringe in 2021 and if there is are you planning to do it?

I’m currently undecided, I really hope it does happen and I really hope I can be there, but I’m just not sure. 

What are your thoughts about online gigs? Are they any substitute for 'the real thing'?

I hold the unpopular opinion that zoom gigs are actually good fun. I’ve even watched a few purely as a spectator and really enjoyed them. I highly recomend Catherine Bohart’s Gigless and James Gill’s Always Be Comedy. Both nights always have brilliant acts, fantastic audiences and, I don’t think this is said enough, brilliant tech people who keep the gig ticking over seamlessly. 

Have you had Covid and if you have how are you now?

My fiance had it back in March (he’s okay now) so I imagine I must have had it and am just one of those asymptomtic people. That or I’m just physically much, much stronger than him. 

What about the future. Do you think the UK comedy scene has changed forever or do you think eventually it will go back to how it was?

I’m hopeful for the future of UK comedy. In between lockdown 1 and 2 people came back to comedy clubs so  it was pretty clear they’d rather risk their lives than spend one more minute at home with the people they love. Everybody needs an escape, everybody needs a laugh. I don’t know when, but I know live comedy will be back. 

 

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