British comedian Luisa Omielan, whose stand-up comedy and new show Politics for Bitches on BBC helped her win the award for BAFTA Breakthrough Artist for 2018, opened up in a recent interview about the surprising and eye-opening experience of accidentally being branded “the face of right-wing comedy.” Speaking to BBC News, Omielan said that she had been almost completely ignorant of politics until last year — to the point that she was unaware that “the Tory party and the conservative party were actually the same thing.”
“I hate politics. I find it so boring, so inaccessible — genuinely couldn’t care less for it,” said Omielan. “And then so many things started happening last year — Trump got elected, the Brexit thing. And I just realized I’ve got no idea what any of this means.”
After her mother died of cancer last year, Omelian said, she realized that she and others who “didn’t care” about politics were delusional in thinking that policy decisions wouldn’t affect them. Her mother, she said, visited her doctor six times to report disturbing symptoms but was told by her doctor that it was “nothing sinister.” By the time doctors noticed her mother had cancer, she said, there was nothing to be done but watch her mother die the most “undignified, painful, slow, cruel death imaginable” over the course of four weeks. That trauma, she said, served as the inspiration behind Politics for Bitches.
“So I started talking about this onstage and being like, ‘Oh, for me I thought politics was all these guys in Westminster that didn’t affect me,’” she recalled. “And then it did affect me, because my mom died and she died horribly. The system wasn’t there to aid her or support her … My mom paid taxes her entire life. She did not deserve the ending that she had.”
“It doesn’t sound very funny,” she added. “I mean, it wasn’t for a long time. But then by using comedy and using the audiences and their experiences I turned it into a comedy show.”
Her newfound interest in politics led to a public outcry, however, after she got overexcited from watching The Iron Lady, a drama based on the life of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“I didn’t know who Margaret Thatcher was for a long time. Thought she was a pop star in the ’80s, didn’t realize. I didn’t know, I didn’t care,” Omelian admitted. “I watched The Iron Lady, thought she was a very powerful woman, then I said, ‘I love Margaret Thatcher’ online. Oh my dear. Never put that as your Facebook status, because boy did I get an education. And then I was on the front page of The Telegraph, like ‘This is the face of right-wing comedy.’ It was me! I was like, ‘I don’t even know what right-wing means, mate.’”
The important thing, she said, was to encourage more people to get involved and engaged with politics so that they wouldn’t be as surprised and shattered as she was when the system failed her.
“This is the thing, I think people are too scared to be called stupid,” said Omelian. “Politics is purposely inaccessible … Politicians have lost track of the idea that the more you know about something, the more it’s your duty to share it with those that don’t because politics affects everybody. I think it’s about empowering everyday people just to realize their own importance.”
Watch Omelian’s interview with BBC News below.