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Mary Bourke: ‘I don’t believe comedy should be a soft play area’

Someone on TripAdvisor once described Irish stand-up Mary Bourke’s show as “truly appalling and an affront to human dignity” – and she will soon be appearing in Cambridge as part of Comedy Connoisseurs.

Mary Bourke. Picture: Andy Robinson of Photofarm
Mary Bourke. Picture: Andy Robinson of Photofarm

As well as that glowing online review, Mary also had a show cancelled following a performance at London comedy club, Comedy Unleashed, where she spoke of what it means to be a woman and the issues she has with being labelled a ‘TERF’. Some people attending her gigs have said they’ve felt “unsafe” with some of her jokes. We put some questions to her:

Hi Mary. What have you been up to recently?

I’ve just returned from a tour of Australia. I was performing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

You are performing your critically-acclaimed and controversial previous Edinburgh Fringe Festival show Mary Bourke Offended Me as part of the Jesterlarf Comedy Club 'Comedy Connoisseurs' series in Cambridge. Will you be doing your usual routine or ‘tone it down a bit’ for the more sensitive types?

I don’t believe comedy should be a soft play area. If you are offended by thoughts and ideas that are different from your own, then maybe you should stay at home and listen to a podcast while hiding under a duvet and knitting.

A TripAdvisor review described your show as “truly appalling and an affront to human dignity”. What did you say to make them so upset and what did you make of this review?

I do a whole routine about how awful Peppa Pig is and how she’s a sociopathic monster and a terrible influence on children. One woman in the audience took exception to this routine and wrote a 2,000-word dissertation on TripAdvisor.

She used the phrase “truly appalling and an affront to human dignity” to describe my comedy. It made me laugh so much that now I insist that it’s on every poster. I hope one day that I get to meet ‘Holistic-Mummy55’, the author of the review, in real life.

I’ve watched the routine at Comedy Unleashed that led to one of your shows being cancelled. Do you fear for the future of comedy and of society? How did it come to this where we are told your material made people feel ‘unsafe’?

You’re not supposed to know where a comic is going, it’s supposed to blindside and shock you. The comic’s job is to say the things you want to say, the things you were thinking or maybe didn’t think you wanted to say until they said it for you.

Who were your biggest comedy influences growing up and who do you admire now?

I was a huge fan of Les Dawson when I was growing up, I think he was a comedy genius. At the moment I love a lot of Aussie comics like Jacques Barrett, Chris Ryan, Nath Valvo, and Damien Power.

Please tell us something about yourself that may surprise people

I am an amazing Irish dancer and I’ve won multiple medals and prizes.

What are some of your future goals and ambitions?

My ambitions are to travel a whole lot more. I really want to do stand-up in South America and I’m doing an English language comedy gig in Buenos Aires at Christmas.

See Mary live at the Cambridge Junction (J2) on Friday, June 2. Also on the bill is Reginald D Hunter. Tickets, priced £20, are available at junction.co.uk.

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