Random 8

Yulia Pylyavskaya

Yulia Pylyavskaya

One random comedian, eight random questions; it's the ultimate test of funny person and fate. This week we extend the warmest of welcomes to Yulia Pylyavskaya; from Ukraine, living in Catalonia, but now giving London another go.

"I moved from Kyiv to London back in 1999, now I have a British personality, ungetriddable Ukrainian accent and have no idea for the past few years what to do with all this in Barcelona, after Brexit," she admits, "so planning to move back to London this summer."

Yulia has stand-up and sit-down skills: she recently published a debut novel, Adventures of a Big Girl in a Flat City, "a comic portrait of a post-soviet dysfunctional society of the '90s, in those times of no feminism, no war, no communication skills."

"Originally this trip 10th to 22nd May was planned to do my book launch on the Word On The Water. But, for technical reasons, it's been rescheduled to 5th July, my birthday. It just makes sense weather-wise too, right?"

Right. Instead, this has turned into a busy stand-up tour, around London and the Brighton Fringe, with a notable background. "My comedy tour is devoted to those who need help and support due to the Russian invasion into Ukraine, where my dad still lives," Pylyavskaya explains.

"Most of these shows raise money for Ukraine which is great. Also my personal mission is to put £10 away for each show that I do for the writer Marina Tkacheva. She lives in Kharkiv, shops for groceries, cooks and delivers meals to those who are less able to look after themselves."

Do drop Marina a line if you'd like to contribute too. Meanwhile, Yulia Pylyavskaya, your Random 8 await.

Yulia Pylyavskaya

Who was your childhood hero?

The Snow Queen, I thought she was so cool, not having any emotions. I was a sensitive-to-everything child, could get upset for days because of stepping on a snail. Then I would organise the funeral and make a little cross made out of chewing gum and two matches and stand there with a serious face. Deep down I wished I was a badass like her and stopped caring so much about stuff.

What's your favourite phrase or expression?

Whenever I had a devastating thing to share with my mom, she would listen ever so compassionately, then she would say: 'let it be the biggest problem of your entire life.' Then I felt like: aaah, I kinda want more problems though, no.

Which historical figure deserves more attention?

Lesya Ukrainka. Ukrainian, feminist in very strange dark times. I find it fascinating they managed to speak up in those suppressive times. Yet we all know way too well all these misogynists like Tolstoy.

Who's the most interesting person you've ever met?

Oh, it's my son, no doubts. I am always interested in what he is up to in his room, has he done his homework, who he is going out with and when will he be back, what did he eat etc. I feel like I am stalking my underaged flatmate. But I just can't help it, his life is fascinating to me.

He tells me a lot less then I want to know. It's a good tactic to keep someone interested, right?

What's the best journey you ever went on?

I genuinely think it's the one I am on now. Being in London, doing comedy after five months of single parenting while dealing with bereavement and the war in Ukraine. It's an absolute treat - comedy night after comedy night and all this attention and laughter while raising money for what I think is the most important cause.

But if we are talking about the journey - it's a trip to Zimbabwe for my friend's wedding in 2012. She has grown up with two lions as home pets. Her dad picked them up as cubs while doing safari. Then we were on this huge boat in the middle of Zambezi and 50 guests jumped into the water from a five-storey high boat.

I remember standing at the top patio of that boat, scared to death and all those 50 people in the water started to scream and clap: Julia! Jump! Julia! Jump!

I realised I can't resist 50 people clapping. I just have to do what they want! So I jumped. It was the scariest thing I've done (apart from standing on the stage and speaking into a mic for the first time.)

Only later they told me that river was full of crocodiles. They just don't usually swim that far. The key word was 'usually'.

Yeah, it was a miraculous trip. A baboon was hitting on me near Victoria Falls toilets. The monkey came close to me and sat in the provocative pose and just stared at me. Good tactic, no? I could see between his legs he was keen.

'Dude, I would love to,' I said. I mean who doesn't like an adventure during vacation. But at this point my husband at the time comes out of the toilet. Yeah, it would be too soon to abandon him for another stud, as it was kinda our honeymoon.

Yulia Pylyavskaya

Is there a book or movie that changed your life?

Lady Chatterley's Lover. Because being a teenager during the post-Soviet Union era you absolutely had no access to any kind of sexual education. I honestly didn't realise that you could actually write about THAT KIND OF STUFF and put all those actions into words.

I still feel for teens growing up in suppressive cultures. Especially females where any kind of curiosity on the subject is ridiculously slut-shamed. I guess, my plan to write my own book of mocking the sexually suppressive society was born and formed thanks to DH Lawrence. Ironically, later I did my MA in Comparative Literature in Nottingham, where he had also studied.

Also, the movie Irreversible. My boyfriend at the time said it's a lovely film, we should watch it; knowing perfectly well I am sensitive AF to stuff like that. I literally couldn't get the images out of my head for months after. I realised I can't be attracted to anyone who calls it a lovely film; could have been married with a few kids to that one otherwise. So, yeah, definitely a life changer.

What's the greatest invention of all time?

Bras. I really don't know how girls would get by with all that sweat on their tummies otherwise. Probably would have to invent tummy pads or something like that.

Which live event would you most like to have attended?

Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I am going to one this year. I hope to bump into Nikki Glaser or Katherine Ryan. I don't know if any of them will be there, but if they will and they read this - they are very welcome to bump into me. I will sweat and stutter but I will wear a bra, so all cool.


Adventures of a Big Girl in a Flat City by Yulia Pylyavskaya is out now. Amazon

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