Who’s laughing now? Lolly Adefope’s turning stage fright into stand-up

Lolly Adefope

Lolly Adefope - Credit: Archant

Emerging comedian Lolly Adefope is bringing a flavour of the Edinburgh Fringe to Bethnal Green with her final preview gig before heading up north. The 23-year-old stand-up, who specialises in character comedy, is sharing an hour with former BBC New Comedy Awards finalist Matt Winning at the Backyard Comedy Club in Witan Street on Sunday (July 27).

Adefope has been building towards this year’s Fringe ever since spending last summer working backstage for other festival shows and says that finding the right routine has taken around six months of preparation.

“I have been up in Edinburgh a few times before helping with other productions but I’m really looking forward to performing my own gigs. Most of the stuff I’ve been doing recently has been working towards perfecting a half hour for the Fringe,” she explains.

Authenticity might be the buzzword for mainstream comics, but Adefope sets herself apart by delivering her set through the guise of a hapless comedienne called Gemma.

She reveals that the decision wasn’t intended to generate more laughs; rather it began as a way of concealing her stage fright. “I was too scared to do stand-up comedy,” she confides. “So I decided to play a character who has just started and is quite bad at it!”

Her alter ego is a somewhat self-indulgent 23-year-old from Preston, portrayed as she stumbles her way through her first live stand-up session and botches gags about offices, taxis and superpowers along the way.

“My favourite gigs are when people are clapping for hours and hours afterwards,” Adefope jokes, with just a hint of her comic persona’s sardonic arrogance. “It happens every show so it gets boring, but standing ovations and people crying from joy are great too.”

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The young talent is open about the parallels between herself and Gemma – “It’s basically just me with a Northern accent” – and finds humour in the audience members who can’t quite make the distinction.

“There is some confusion when people think that the character is really me. Sometimes after a gig, someone will say, ‘Hi Gemma’, and I wonder whether they thought all the weird stuff I said was actually me,” she says.

A prolific social media user, Adefope admits that she frequently even tweets in character and regards the system of retweets and favourites as an ideal market research tool for comics, on top of providing publicity.

The task of playing an inexperienced comedienne will surely get harder for Adefope as her stock rises, but no doubt her passion for comedy will carry her through.

“I love making people laugh,” she gushes. “There’s also the awkwardness of acknowledging that I think I’m funny enough to make people pay to come and see me.”

Lolly Adefope performs at the Backyard Comedy Club, 231 Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green on Sunday. Visit backyardbar.co.uk

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