Interview: Luisa Omielan

Luisa Omielan

Luisa Omielan is the most successful comedian you have never heard of. If you only get your comedy fix from television the name may not mean much. But earlier this year a clip of Omielan notched up over 5 million Facebook hits in two days. It’s now well over 10 million. 

The routine, filmed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, featured the funny, frank 32-year-old nailing the absurdity of the thigh gap – the vogue for women’s upper legs not touching. The punchline was both verbal and visual. Omielan pulled her trousers down to celebrate the fact that her legs brushed against each other and declared that she liked her food by grabbing a handful of stomach: “You see this? I love this.” 

Back in the UK and sipping a cold drink in Soho she is still shocked at how she went viral. “I didn’t see that coming. Before the show I was crying my eyes out, probably over a boy, then I got to the theatre for the rehearsal and had a panic attack because it was so big and I was by myself. I got two tweets at the time that said ‘nice trousers’ and that was it. Then I put the clip on my fanpage and the next thing you know it’s gone viral.” 

Offstage Omielan is chatty, but nothing like she is onstage, where this small, unimposing woman from Farnborough in Hampshire becomes a clowning powerhouse, dancing, running around, pulling faces and sitting on fans’ laps. She attracts huge female audiences. Women leave her shows empowered as well as entertained and men love her too even though she teases them: “Who is really the weaker sex? My body is capable of making life, you can’t even make a sandwich.”

Her first show, What Would Beyonce Do?!, was a word-of-mouth hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 and had six sold-out runs at the Soho Theatre. The sequel, Am I Right Ladies?!, is about to return to London by popular demand. “The first show was therapy, the second was a manifesto.” The live Omielan experience is like no other comedy show. Which may be why she has had difficulties transferring to television. But that is changing. She had a small part in the Miranda Christmas Special when the star got tangled on one of her trademark hooped ear-rings and last week she was filmed for The John Bishop Show, to be broadcast on BBC1 on June 27.

The thigh gap routine encapsulated what Omielan does so well. “Audiences crave honesty,” she chuckles. “The stuff I talk about is the stuff I talk to my friends about all the time. It’s not something that’s new, we all know this stuff anyway. It’s sad how many people it touches. I didn’t realise it was such a problem.” 

Her routine was inspired by a real experience. “I was in LA and an American agent said I was too fat. I was really upset about that so I mentioned it onstage and pulled my trousers down. It’s really funny how showing your pants tickles people. I felt like the kid in school flashing her knickers and becoming the most popular girl in class.”

Omielan hates the tyranny of body fascism more than anything else: “I’m a size 12 or 14. I’m a bit fat sometimes, but who cares? Why is it anybody else’s business, it’s so ingrained in our psyche. I go out for lunch with friends and it’s what they talk about and I go ‘why are you ruining my food? I’ve come out to enjoy my food’. We’re taught to hate ourselves and life’s hard enough already. When you’ve got seven year olds with anorexia it’s a problem.”

Interview continues here.

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