Serial Killers and Sequins with Kiri Pritchard-Mclean
How does a comedian with a podcast about serial killers make space for feminism in comedy?
With a cackling laugh that shakes the foundations of the patriarchy, stand-up Kiri Pritchard-Mclean’s sense of humour is wickedly earthy. Some of her best moments can be found on the podcast All Killa No Filla, which she co-created with Rachel Fairburn. Between discussing the lives of famous serial killers, Fairburn and Pritchard-Mclean are both pure filth and utterly funny, swapping anecdotes that cover everything from their attitudes to anal sex to the bizarre behaviours of their friends in comedy. This, she remarks on Sofie Hagen’s Made of Human podcast, is the real Kiri Pritchard-Mclean; she’s still working on “that dream of being as funny [on stage] as you are with your friends when you’re relaxed”.
Relaxed or otherwise, Pritchard-Mclean is unafraid to take on subjects that are tricky to navigate, be it trashing serial killers on her podcast, or finding the humour in her experience of volunteering with vulnerable children for her stand-up show Appropriate Adult. What’s brilliant about her is that she is always careful to ensure that her jokes are hitting the right target. In each episode of All Killa No Filla the co-hosts insist that their intention is never to trivialise the crimes committed, or make fun of any victims. They do it, they joke, so that they don’t end up writing to the killers in prison instead.
That’s not to say that Pritchard-Mclean’s humour isn’t dark; anyone who can laugh on a podcast about murder must be willing to tread the line of what’s “OK”. It’s refreshing to have comedians like her disproving the tired line that comedy is killed by the millennial concern with safe spaces and being “PC”. Her stand-up is packed with laughs, and she’s more than willing to take you to the gutter with her, but she won’t ask you to laugh at the undeserving.
The key to this kind of comedy, as she discusses with Sofie Hagen on Made of Human, is to build enough trust with an audience that they know they’re safe to enter those dark places with her. With social media it’s easy to feel like you can get to know a comedian, and she recognises that her fans build their trust in her comedy based on the persona that she puts out there.
Her social media presence doesn’t feel like a persona, and her honesty is a treat for anyone who likes a break from the shiny images of seeming perfection that populate our Instagram feeds. A regular feature on her Instagram page is the bedraggled front-camera shot. Be it post run or post gig, she’s a fan of a sweaty, smudged make-up and no-fucks-to-give selfie.
Even still, when she wants to dazzle, she certainly will. Recently on The Russell Howard Hour, the farm-raised comedian can be seen striding across the stage in a sequinned silver jumpsuit and glittery boots to match. It may not seem particularly feminist to bring up her outfit choices, but her looks on stage, as she says on Made of Human, are just another fuck-you to society.
She’s not skinny, she says on Hagen’s podcast, but that was never going to stop her wearing exactly what she wanted. On The Russell Howard Hour, Pritchard-Mclean talks about the totally different experience clubbing becomes when you’re in your 30s. It seems being over 30 and a size 14 is like an invisibility cloak against predators. In her usual forthright style she quips, “I am fat enough for cunts not to want to have sex with me – I think I’m alright with that!”.
The comedy scene can only become more inclusive and more challenging to the status quo when women like Kiri Pritchard-Mclean are being given a platform. In her show Hysterical Woman, she talks about the sexism that prevails in comedy, calling out the hecklers who make women’s sets a nightmare as much as the hostility of the bookers who deny women stage-time.
Mclean is utterly unforgiving of the sexism she and her fellow comedians have encountered, but she has hope for the future. She says, “in comedy, you can have difficult conversations that you can’t have normally”, and that seems to be the driving force in the work that she does. She’s not the first of her kind, and she hopefully won’t be the last, but her kind of comedy is brilliant news for western women. Comedy has, for a long time, had little room for feminism but here we are with comedians like her - and Sofie Hagen, and Jo Brand, and Sara Pascoe to name but few - calling out society’s flaws and challenging our preconceptions of femininity. It’s an exciting (and heavily sequinned) time.
Photography by Kayla Wren, sourced via http://www.kiripritchardmclean.co.uk/