British Comedy Guide

Maria Shehata: Britain versus Los Angeles

Picture of a slide near a graveyard, near Canada Water.I was in London recently, walking to a bar in Canada Water, and I passed a playground that was in a cemetery. The cold metal slide, the kind that have since been replaced by happy brightly coloured plastic slides, led children right into the grave stones (pictured). Their little smiling faces fading at the site of the grim new backdrop at their feet. A short fun little ride into mortality. I feel that explains a lot about why British people are the way they are.

You always hear about Brits being doom and gloom, self deprecating, and generally negative. If the UK is the goth kid at school, America is the sunny cheerleader you can't stand.

One could easily think Los Angeles residents are so happy they must be dumb. And you know what? A lot of Angelenos are dumb. I'm not going to stick up for us, because we're fine with it. Los Angeles is so far removed from the rest of the world, its own sunny little bubble. We get the news hours later than everyone else, and by then, the sun is glowing on our skin, and we are well into our 3 mimosa lunch date. The news will just have to wait.

When I lived in New York, it was a city that felt in step with the rest of the world. LA is the sibling that wanted nothing to do with the family drama, and moved away to smoke weed all day.

I spent four years in NYC doing comedy, before moving to LA, where I've been doing comedy for the past six years, just in case you were wondering what my credits are, which you weren't, you don't care. In LA, the MC gives credits to the comedian they are bringing to the stage, because the audience needs to know why they should like them. In Britain acts are brought up with little introduction because you'll decide for yourselves, thank you very much.

Maria Shehata.Doing stand-up in London felt more like a conversation, while LA audiences like more of a character, a performer. The British like subtlety. They read it on my face, and find the humour without much spoon feeding from me. British people make the leap from A to C. They are in on the secret - 'I know how she really feels'.

If you were watching a best man give a speech at a wedding, Angelenos are looking at the speaker, laughing at his jokes, while the British are looking at the maid of honour's face to see if there was a past relationship between the two of them.

Brits will pack themselves into a small room in the upstairs of a bar, like a Victoria Line tube station at 6pm. 150 butts bumping into each other, making room for each other, because you are all in the boat together, and wanna talk about the journey. In LA, there's a lot of space. There is room for all of our cars, all of our surfboards, and all of our egos. And there is room at comedy shows, because no one comes to them. Because we're already happy: Gossip, beauty, health, and careers... we are a live issue of Cosmo magazine.

I once had a co-worker ask me to punch him in the stomach to demonstrate how strong his abs had gotten. I punched him in the stomach, and he keeled over gasping for breath. What he saw were my small biceps. What he didn't see were the years of shitty open mics I had been doing. All the empty comedy shows were affecting me on a level I wasn't even aware of until that glorious moment.

The British may have a negative outlook on life, but it's out there for everyone to see, it's genuine, and you come together to laugh together. Angelenos are beautiful, but we're not connected. A collection of every city's biggest assholes, everyone is self-involved, career driven, and shallow. And that affects how we communicate. Not many people in the UK are ordering vodka and soda because it is the least caloric cocktail you can put into My Fitness Pal. You know how to enjoy yourselves. You have a few pints, gain a few pounds, and talk about what really matters. You live your life, because you know all too well, it's just a short little ride to the grave.

'Maria Shehata: Little Ethnic Girl' is at 6:15pm at New Waverley Arches on 25-31 August. Entry is free. Listing

To find out more about Maria visit her website: www.mariashehata.com

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