A brief discussion with Jane Duffus, founder of What The Frock! Comedy.
What’s your hometown? BRISTOL!
Tell us a bit about What The Frock! What’s the story behind it? I set up What The Frock! Comedy in January 2012 to try and counter the fact that on an average Friday night in the UK only 8% of the comedians being booked by comedy clubs were women. This made no sense to me! So since then I’ve gone on to put on 40+ events, expanded to 5 cities, added workshops and a comedy competition to our portfolio, and early next year we’ll be publishing a book celebrating 100 years of fantastically funny women. Phew!
The venue for this WTF! event is pretty classy! How did you first come across and choose The Mauretania? The Mauretania is gorgeous! It’s named after the Mauretania ship, as the original owner in the 1930s bought a load of the fittings from the ship when she was taken out of service and used them to decorate his venue. In the Mauretania Bar, where we are on Friday October 17, there are still the original pillars, panelling, ceiling covings, mirrors and more from the ship and it’s stunning – like going back to an Art Deco cocktail lounge.
Are there regular house comedians people can expect to see? On October 17, one of our two resident comperes Cerys Nelmes will be hosting the night. Cerys is a local act and we’ve worked with her for about two years now – she’s fantastic and our audiences absolutely love her. She’s a great compere, and is so at home chatting with the audience. Our other resident compere is Jayde Adams, who is originally from Bedminster and earlier this year won the national Funny Women competition as well as the London Cabaret Awards. Jayde and Cerys host on alternate months, and the next night with Jayde in charge is November 14 (at the Colston Hall’s Lantern).
What events should we come down & check out to get the full WTF! vibe? On October 17 at the Mauretania, Cerys will be running our New Kids On The Frock! night. This is our new material / new talent night, where some of our favourite established acts can try out their newer sets, and we can share some of the best up and coming comedians with audiences who may not have seen them before. With seven acts on the bill and a £7 door charge, that’s literally £1 an act – which seems like a good deal to me! The other night we run is classic What The Frock! – which is the night Jayde runs. This is when we welcome two acts who are a little more established, who you’ll have spotted on shows such as Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats etc, and who you’ll jump at the chance to see in your home city. We’re very excited about both nights.
Tell us a bit about the previous artists! Any personal favourites? We’ve had about 150 comedians through the What The Frock! doors so far, and are constantly adding to that number. It’s hard to pick favourites as obviously I love them all – I only book acts who I know to be brilliant, as I want to ensure my audience sees the very best possible comedy. I’m very proud of Cardiff-born Bethan Roberts though, who won the first ever What The Frock! Newcomer Award back in 2013 and has come on in leaps and bounds since then, and we still regularly work with her.
How did you personally get into the world of comedy? Simply through frustration! I’m a journalist originally – I spent my 20s living and working in London as a busy freelancer on celeb and telly magazines, but after I moved down to Bristol in 2008 I slowly gravitated more towards events promotion. I love it! The two are actually quite similar and require the same sort of personality to make it work. I often think the most fun things are those that you accidentally end up in… fate puts things in front of you for a reason.
What’s the plan for the upcoming winter months? Anything exciting lined up for the future? Very much so – every month is an exciting month in Frock! land. As well as the October 17 and November 14 shows (on November 14 we have Aisling Bea and Shazia Mirza, by the way – look them both up on YouTube and be blown away), in January we’re moving to a new venue. We’re pleased to be working with the new Rip Roar club in central Bristol, which will be opening in November, and we’re moving in from January. There will be a lot of exciting things happening once we’ve got our feet under the table there.
When you’re not busy organising comedy nights, where do you like to head to in Bristol to wind down? I love walking my dog up at Ashton Court through the woods. And I’m a keen runner, so like heading out and discovering new parts of Bristol on my long training runs – the towpath to Pill is a personal favourite route. But I also love going to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, and have seen some absolutely amazing shows there – we’re very lucky to have a theatre of that calibre on our doorstep.
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