Comedian Chloe Petts: ‘I love being called ‘boss man’ in the fried chicken shop’
Chloe Petts describes herself as a six foot lesbian from Kent who is often mistaken for a man. And this has proven to be a rich seam of comedy for the rising star, writes Alex Spencer.
Fresh from her smash-hit Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre sell-out debut, Chloe has a brand-new show, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice.
In it, she reveals that being frequently misgendered can have its upsides but can also come with a side salad of unexpected violence.
And after being praised for her polite and well-mannered way of handling hot topics like gender and toxic masculinity in the last show, in her second hour, Chloe’s returning with a newer, ruder approach to the big issues. Expect routines on weddings, men who like Millwall and calling everyone a bunch of virgins.
“It’s kind of written in as a response to my first show, Transience, which was an attempt to kind of break these big ideas around gender and sexuality into bite-sized chunks for people that might not necessarily know that stuff or feel confident about that stuff,” says Chloe.
“I was trying to defuse this moral panic around gender non conformity and trans people. And so that that didn’t work, because if anything, transphobia has got far worse. I was polite in the last show, so maybe I’ll try being more angry this time and people will listen.
“I think I’m a people pleaser. I think I want audiences to like me, and that’s why I’ve tried to loosen my shackles a little bit in this show and get a bit ruder and a bit shoutier just to free myself of trying to please everyone.
“It came up in therapy that I was feeling quite angry about stuff. And I think as a British person, I repress that anger because we consider it to be quite an unsavoury thing, because we regard ourselves as an incredibly polite nation. But if you’re angry and you repress it, it’s going to come out somehow. That’s why I go to football and get drunk so that I can shout at the men that I would have liked to shout at in the street.”
Co-founder of The LOL Word, an all women and non-binary queer comedy collective regularly hosting sell-out monthly London nights, Chloe is an alumna of the prestigious Pleasance Comedy Reserve, and has been shortlisted for the BBC Comedy Award. As well as supporting Ed Gamble on his Electric 2022 UK tour, Chloe was selected to perform at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April, before returning to the UK to complete her Transience tour.
She’s a huge football fan and was a regular on World Cup Breakfast (Sky Sports) for the 2022 men’s World Cup, appeared on Good Morning Euros (Sky Sports) for the UEFA Women’s Euros and returned to Sky Sports again as a regular to discuss the women’s World Cup.
As well as football, Chloe loves watching darts. She says: “I have been really impressed by the success of (darts player) Luke Littler. But I do wonder if anyone could be a darts player? Because it is just throwing a small thing at another small thing and I think most people could get quite good at that. But Luke has clearly got something where you can’t work out what makes the difference between you playing in the pub with your mates and someone who’s actually world class at it.
“It’s probably like the survey that found 75 per cent of men thought they could win a point against Serena Williams. I think that if I spend enough time in the pub, I can beat Luke Littler. Maybe he will read this and accept my challenge!”
At six foot, Chloe does sometimes “read as a man” to other people, she says. “That’s happened more than once. If you’re like a tall person that people perceive to be a man, they sometimes just trip you up. It’s really bizarre!
“I accidentally got in the way of this guy one time and he pushed me over to the ground. And when I got up, I was like, why did you do that? And then he realised that I wasn’t a bloke and went ‘Sorry, I didn’t know you were a woman’. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe just don’t push anyone, regardless of their gender’. But also what was cool about that was he had showed me all of his moral cards, which was that he didn’t believe in hurting or hitting women. So I thought, OK, I’ve just got a free hit. Now I can say whatever I like to this bloke, and I know that he’s not going to do anything to harm me. So I just absolutely laid into him and called him all the names under the sun. And that was very freeing.”
However, other times she has enjoyed being perceived as a man, which happened more often during the pandemic while she was wearing a mask.
“When I go into a corner shop the people there are so polite to me, call me ‘brother’, all of that kind of stuff. Getting called ‘boss man’ in the chicken shop - I love that! Taxi drivers speak to me politely. It’s great. That’s male privilege.
“It happened more when I was wearing a mask but actually I dress in quite a masculine way these days and I think my general vibe is quite masculine.
“Dressing this way makes me feel quite empowered, to dress in a way that I’d always wanted to, and had always felt natural to me. I guess it made more confident in myself and my body as well. Like I’m not trying to try to hide as much. I’m just sort of trying to just be myself.”
Chloe reckons she first discovered her talent for comedy because of her family.
“My family are really funny and I think I probably got into this job because I wanted to prove to them that I could be as funny as they were. At primary school I used to just like telling stupid stories and singing stupid songs to people to try and make people laugh and I don’t know if if that’s become more or less intelligent within me as I’ve grown up. I was probably my most funny when I was at primary school! But yeah, it’s always been something I’ve loved to do and always been the way that I’ve tried to connect with people, maybe because of my sexuality and my gender and my masculinity and stuff like that. Maybe it’s been a way of connecting with people when I felt a bit self conscious about other bits of me.”
In her show, which is coming to Cambridge Junction, Chloe says she hopes everyone will feel welcome and included.
“I want to be able to speak to everyone. I don’t want it to feel exclusive. I don’t want it to feel like an echo chamber. I want it to feel like anyone can come as long as they’re coming in good faith. And to be honest, I do want people to think about things, but my main priority is to make them laugh and to have a really lovely evening. And not to feel like I’ve lectured them or it’s been totally didactic or anything like that. I just want them to have a really nice time. And if it causes them to think about gender, sexuality, or even their own relationship to anger in a different way, then that’s an absolute bonus, but it’s not my priority.”
Chloe Petts is at Cambridge Junction on Friday, 23 February. Tickets are £18 from junction.co.uk.