The winner of the Funny Women Finals 2009, Miss London (aka Dionne Hughes), is to star in a new BBC Three pilot called Laughter Shock. The show, due to be screened in February of next year, will feature a mix of sketch and stand-up from 12 of the best new multicultural acts in the country, who are all making their debut television appearances.
Miss London, 20, has been busy filming the sketches with BBC Three but managed to take some time out of a tightly-packed schedule – she has also been filming for CBBC’s show Big Babies and studying for a media and cultural studies degree – to tell me about the pilot and how her life has changed since winning the Funny Women award.
Although this was Miss London’s first experience of performing in sketches, (Laughter Shock’s were written by established comic and writer Victor Daniels) she adapted to it very quickly and professes that she preferred it to stand-up. “With stand-up it’s just you on your own with your own material so you really feel the pressure. When I work with other people it’s not the be-all and end-all if I mess up, I’m able to bounce off them. ” She adds: “Plus, I had a great script to work off.”
However, filming can have its downside. Whereas with stand-up, a performer can be on and off the stage in a flash, basking in the warmth radiating from the audience (all being well) filming can involve a lot of standing around and waiting, sometimes in the freezing cold. London says: “There was one scene in the park where I had to stand about in a tracksuit for two hours, I needed a lot of hot chocolate to keep me warm.” She also narrowly missed breaking her toes when an exuberant co-star landed on her feet with his knees, but it was all worth it for Miss London who loved meeting and working with comedians from the urban and mainstream.
London has had a meteoric rise on the mainstream circuit but says she still prefers the ‘harder’, more ‘urban’ audiences. “It’s more rewarding because you know that if you make them laugh, you’ve really done well. Very often, urban audiences will sit there with their arms folded with the attitude of ‘you’ve got to make me laugh’.”
Little more than a year ago, Miss London was still working in T.G.I Friday’s and couldn’t have foreseen how much this year would change her life. In the past six months her performances have, as producer of Funny Women Lynne Parker says, “just blown people away”. Not surprisingly, London’s off-stage demeanour is a touch more reserved than the whirling tornado of energy and hilarity she releases on stage but throughout her whole life, she’s had people tell her how funny she is. She would never have considered trying stand-up but slowly began to wonder about the best way to channel her talent. As if the universe was pushing her towards making a decision, she started to see signs everywhere she went. “I’d be at the bus stop and would see a Russell Howard poster, every time I switched on the TV there would be an advert for the British Comedy Awards and at the end of a programme a comedian would come on to be interviewed.” London finally took note of the signs and asked her university (Kingston University) if she could do a comedy gig at their talent show, they’d asked her to perform as a dancer and were happy for her to go on twice. It went down a storm and friends of hers, already on the comedy scene, further encouraged her and ensured she got gigs in Soho venues.
London continued performing, eventually beating off competition from 250 other contestants to win the Funny Women Final 2009, where she unleashed a fantastic and engaging five minutes of confidently delivered gags, anecdotes and a hilarious range of facial expressions, all conveyed with a genuine love of what she was doing and a desire to show the audience a good time. London was genuinely gobsmacked to win but reveals the first song to come on her iPod shuffle before she left the house that night, was ‘Winner.’ Yet another sign she was going in the right direction.
London would advise anyone thinking of going into stand-up to “believe in yourself.” This is certainly a dictum she took on board when she wrote on her Facebook page: “I’m going to be a successful stand-up comedienne”, ignoring some of the more derisive comments that this prompted from friends. She says: “You have to trust yourself and take your own advice sometimes.”
Trusting herself has certainly worked for Miss London. People now tell her she’s a role model and she’s getting paid to do something she truly loves. As she says, she could never go back to doing a day job in Topshop or T.G.I Friday’s. About to embark on the Real Deal Comedy Tour around the UK during Christmas, it doesn’t look as though London will be getting much of a break this holiday and 2010 looks set to be just as busy with Radio 1Xtra showing interest in the new comedienne.
London is also being represented by Vivienne Clore at Richard Stone Partnership. Clore said: “I’m thrilled to be working with Miss London as I think she has enormous potential and is a lovely (and modest) person to boot.”