Angela Barnes swapped a career in healthcare for stand-up and TV comedy panel shows. As she tours her show, Hot Mess, we hear about her funniest experiences
Which stand-up special made you fall in love with comedy?
Victoria Wood’s show Sold Out, which I had actually seen the year before it came out on video (yes video, I’m in my forties) when she did it as Up West at the Strand Theatre in London.
It was my first live comedy and this woman just had everyone eating out of the palm of her hand, it was like watching magic. She was hilarious, and I utterly fell in love with how words alone could make people react together in such a joyous way. God, she was a legend.
What’s the weirdest heckle you’ve ever heard and how did you reply?
I remember once being on stage when a small voice piped up, “I think your eyes make you look unhappy”. I responded by just saying, “Are you sure it’s my eyes, or is it maybe because I’m in Chatham?”.
What’s your funniest live show experience?
I recently did a show at a naturist festival. I opted to stay fully clothed, but the audience was made up of a couple of hundred fully naked people, which was nerve-wracking. Usually, you’re told to imagine the front row naked, but it doesn’t help when they actually are.
They were a really fun crowd though and up for laughing at themselves. At one point a couple of women got up to go to the loo, and I said, “Don’t too many of you do that at once or I’ll think I’m getting a round of applause”.
Sometimes different elements come together to make a show special and I felt that feeling at this show full of nudists. I got a standing ovation at the end, and, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever unsee it.
You used to work in health and social care before making stand up your career. Did comedy help you with the stresses of working in healthcare?
Definitely, some of the funniest people I know are from my old jobs. If you are working with people at some of the lowest points in their life, it can be hard not to take that on yourself a bit. When it’s appropriate, some levity can help both you and them.
And, of course, in the staff rooms, when you’ve had a tough day and limited resources means you can’t help someone as much as you wanted to, humour can be the only way to break that tension and get you back into work the next day.
It could be dark, and you might say things there that you would never say anywhere else, but it’s an important valve when you work in those fields.
How would you describe your stand-up show Hot Mess?
It’s probably the most personal show I have done. But it’s funny, I promise. At its core it’s about friendship and tells a story of something that happened in my life while all our lives were being rocked by a global pandemic.
But most importantly, there are jokes—loads of them.
Angela Barnes tours the UK with her show Hot Mess in September, October and November
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
Loading up next...