Get To Know: Hilarious YouTube Trio 'Muriel Comedy'
When it comes to comedy, the inequality of representation and recognition of female comedians is no laughing matter. But that hasn’t stopped many funny females from standing up (literally) and making sure their voices and hilarious jokes are heard. Following in their footsteps are three young women from London, New York and Ireland whose comedy-sketch act Muriel has quickly become an online sensation.
Not So Popular's Alannah Francis caught up with the Meg Salter, Sally O’Leary and Janine Harouni, the women behind Muriel, to find out how they started out, who inspires them and what their hopes are for the future of female comedy.
Meg, Sally and Janine all met while at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and were always making each other laugh in improv class. But the idea to start Muriel Comedy didn’t come until they’d left drama school.
“After we graduated and found ourselves unemployed and bored, we thought: “let’s make some comedy together”. So we bought a load of wigs and facial hair (not a joke) and just started filming. And that became VLOVE, our first stab at comedy, which we released earlier this year. It's a fake video dating website with some of the weirdest characters we could think of. It didn't go viral but our friends all seemed to like it and were really encouraging so we thought maybe we should keep at it.”
As you may have noticed, no one in Muriel Comedy is actually named Muriel, but there is a logical reason behind the trio’s choice.
“We named ourselves 'Muriel' after 'Muriel's Kitchen' in Soho, which was the cafe where we originally started writing together.”
It’s hard to sum up their creative brand of comedy with one word but if they had to choose, they’d go with “hairy”.
“We always play all of the characters in our sketches, so we have invested in a lot of wigs and facial hair these past few months. We were even lucky enough to collaborate with hothair.co.uk who provided the gorgeous women's wigs in our latest sketch, 'The Great British Political Bake Off' which we released in October.”
That sketch has clocked up more than a million views on Facebook alone, something which was a welcome surprise to the trio.
“There's been such a positive reaction, it's been so lovely and such a surprise! Having millions of people watch our videos and share them with friends and family is such an awesome feeling.”
Their success is hard-earned. They don’t just perform and script each sketch themselves, they also are fully involved in the production and promotion of each piece of work.
“We collaborate the whole way through, from brainstorming ideas, to ordering the props, to calling people and begging to use their locations to film. We write everything together and know exactly how we want it to look. Then we get a team of lovely friends to shoot it. We often collaborate with the amazing Palikuku Films. And then Janine edits it all together. For 'The Great British Political Bake Off' she edited with the very talented Andrew Nolan, who was also our fabulous director.”
A lot of young creatives, especially women, are taking a DIY approach to producing content across all disciplines because of the restrictions faced when pursuing more traditional routes. One upside to this is that it enables them to have greater autonomy over their work. This is something Muriel Comedy say massively influenced their decision to produce their work in an extremely hands-on way.
“Not only are we making opportunities for ourselves and getting the chance to play all types of ridiculous characters, but it's a huge bonus that we have total creative control over it.”
Although a shared love of comedy, not the underrepresentation of female comedians, was the main driving force behind the creation of Muriel, the trio have by no means ignored the issue in the industry and they’re hopeful for change in that respect in the future.
“It [the inequalities faced by women in comedy] is a reality which we are hoping won't remain that way for much longer. We make comedy together because we love making comedy - we're doing what we love and it's just an awesome bonus that we all happen to be girls.
“Luckily none of us have faced open sexism, but there is a very clear gender discrepancy between the opportunities available for men and the opportunities available for women out there. Female comedians do still have to fight the assumption that women aren't as funny as men. But we do feel really lucky to be living in a time where people are beginning to realise that gap and are working towards closing it.”
Girls from all walks of life will attest to the impact that seeing women working in male dominated industries or carving out their own lane has had on them. Muriel Comedy list Tina Fey and Amy Poehler among their inspirations.
“They were the real groundbreakers and we grew up with their work. They are hilarious, and they're friends which is awesome.”
And just like Fey and Poehler, the women behind the many characters of Muriel Comedy are already encouraging other girls to give comedy a shot.
“We love when other girls get in touch to say they enjoy what we're doing and want to get involved with stuff like this! We hope that the more work we all create ourselves, the more chance there'll be of equalising the role balance.”
Meg, Sally and Janine are already working away on their next Muriel Comedy project.
“Fingers crossed we can find a way to source an ice rink!”
Beyond that, they have big hopes for future. And considering what they’ve achieved so far as independent creatives working with a shoe-string budget, there’s every reason to believe that they can achieve their goals.
“We would love more than anything to have our own sketch series. We've also been working on a sitcom pilot, so we'd love to get that off the ground. I guess the ideal bigger picture for Muriel, is that we can make a living creating our own work, that people will enjoy!”
To watch all of Muriel Comedy’s videos and to keep up to date with their work, check out their social media pages and their website.