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In conversation with feminist comedian Grace Campbell

Written by Arts, Editor's Picks

Grace Campbell is a comedian, feminist activist and co-founder of The Pink Protest group. She’s also the daughter of Alastair Campbell, the highly controversial spin doctor for former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Ahead of her tour date at The Stand in Newcastle, Joe Molander talks to her about her childhood, community organisation and Netflix.
You do comedy and activism, which arguably have a similar goal: getting an audience on your side. Did activism help you with your stand-up or vice versa?

I’m not sure: I was really conscious not to merge the two that much. When people hear the word activist, all comedy evaporates from the room. The activism side of things definitely does help because that’s where my passions come from, it’s just how do I make the passions funny?

In your stand-up, you talk about your very political childhood: was it helpful to have a goldmine for material or do you feel limited by it? Like people only want you to talk about that?

A bit of both: I feel very lucky because I have stories people really wanna hear. At the same time, when I wasn’t talking about my rich political childhood – by rich I mean material, we weren’t really rich, I wish we were  – audiences could be like “oh, why aren’t you talking about politics?”. It’s about showing people I’ll be doing politics and I’ll be doing other stuff. That’s what I’m about.

I’m at terms with the shadow my dad’s controversy cast over my childhood

I imagine it sometimes goes the other way sometimes. Your dad is massively controversial in some circles, whose members believe his actions constitute war crimes: does that cast a shadow over your material?

No. It never has. It’s cast a shadow over my childhood, but I’m twenty five now, I’m pretty at terms with it. I talk about how I would have been very against the Iraq War in the show.

Campbell’s activism includes the #FreePeriods campaign, which resulted in the government announcing plans to provide secondary schools and colleges across England with free menstrual products
Image: Gaby Jerrard PR
How do you think we should go about being activists if we want it to be successful?

It really depends on what you’re trying to do. Whatever you care about, you’ll be able to find a group online that can boost your morale and give you a sense of community. There’s a community of people who love hoovers.

Did the expectation to do more political comedy come from your audience?

No, because a lot of my audience are teenage girls, they wanna hear about everything. They wanna hear about politics and they also wanna hear about my sex life. I love performing to younger girls because they relate to it all. The thing about my comedy is it’s not super super intellectual. Sometimes people can be quite put-down-y when they talk about politics: I just like to make it super accessible.

It’s a privilege to have focussed on activism, because you don’t get paid for it

Do you feel an obligation to help young woman in your activism?

I don’t think it’s an obligation, I think that’s the problem: there’s lots of pressure to be helping people. If you have time and resources, do it, but don’t feel you have to do it. Some people have kids and full time jobs. It’s a privilege to have been able to spend a lot of the last few years focussing on activism, because you don’t get paid for it.

Campbell was in activism for years before a stand-up comedian
Image: Gaby Jerrard PR
Do you think that acts as a barrier to disproportionately working class voices in activism, like ethnic minorities?

Yeah, for sure. You have to have time and resources; starting a campaign, sometimes you need money as well. That’s something we all have to be conscious of.

Where do you think the future of stand-up’s going?

I think because of Netflix, it’s thriving. Not just stand-up, I think there’s a real power in live events now: we all feel we’re constantly in the digital world, and I think people really want to come together more. It’s exciting.  

Last modified: 20th June 2020

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