A Very Mixt Bag of Nutz

Emma Brophy meets Chiswick funny woman Sunna Jarman

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Have you noticed how some stand-up comics wait to go on stage, faces white with fear, visibly shaking with a distinct look of the condemned? They are there to make us laugh so why on earth do they look so morose? It's something I've pondered on more than once and one of the the first things I asked Sunna Jarman over coffee this week.

Sunna is currently running the Mixt Nutz comedy nights that are going down a storm at The Tabard. "Mixt Nutz began as a multi-racial group," she explains (as opposed to my assumption that it was a name for a group of funny people!). "A group of weirdos you mean! Originally I was told I couldn’t be in the sketch show because they already had one white person and then one of the black guys wanted to drop out so they asked me! It ended up being me and Andy who are both white and Dish who isn't!"

"At first I was asked to do an introduction and say 'hello we’re Mixt Nutz a comedy collective' I mean what’s a comedy collective? It makes us sound like some sort of charity!"

Sunna is one of those effortlessly entertaining people who can't tell a story without injecting regular gags. "I thought I’d crack a couple of gags on my intro so I tried a few and I really fell on my ass, they didn’t work at all and I thought my god it isn’t as easy as it looks. So I did a two day course with a company called The Laughing Horse.

"On the first day they get you to write five minutes or so of material and then on the second day they throw you right in at the deep end and make you do five minutes at the Comedy Club. Anyway the course helped me do the intros a better and then they [Mixt Nutz] gave me the odd five minutes. I also do one or two gigs around London but most of the comics who are on the circuit gig about five times a week, it’s constant and that’s the way you get on. You get better, you write more stuff and that’s how your name gets known. That’s what Andy does but I can’t, I have two little boys, a washing machine, dinner to make it’s enough for me to be doing this."

Sunna, a former model and mother of two school age boys, kicked started her own comedy career in a competition called Funny Women. "I worked really hard on entering that competition, I had only been doing stand up for six months. It went really well on the night but I didn’t hear anything, they said don’t call us we’ll call you but I did email them just to confirm that I hadn’t got into the semi finals. They said that they really liked me and they were going to put me through to the semi finals but they received an email from me saying that I wanted to pull out of the competition."

It transpired that one of the other women had emailed them pretending to be Sunna.

"I just couldn’t let it lie, some friends were telling me not to worry, to enter again next year but I had worked so hard to get there. The person who did this didn’t know me, she didn’t know what I had been through."

She discovered who the culprit was eventually, confronted her about it and got an apology and with it closure. She will re-enter next year.

I still didn't get why someone would choose to do something that made them physcially sick with fear. She laughs at my attempts to understand, "Every time I do it I say to Paul [her husband] I don’t want to do it tonight, I feel sick and every time I ask myself why I put myself through it. I’m starting to enjoy it a bit more now. It’s like your wedding day, it’s like an out of body experience I get up, I do my thing and I can’t remember being up there and I can’t remember what I said but it gets better, it’s getting better.

"I thought at Funny Women that’s equality for you, twelve women lined up back stage about to do their five minute gig all looking like they were about to go over the top. I thought what have we let ourselves in for!"

But you don’t have to do it! "I know and I don’t even get paid! For me I suppose it was something I found myself doing rather than something I thought about doing but with most people it is something that they want to do, wanted to do for a long time and once you’ve done it a few times I suppose it does become addictive, the laughter is addictive"

Her search for a new venue for Mixtd Nutz led her to the side room The Tabard where each week they present six comedy acts - MC Andy, four up and comings and one paid headliner who closes the show. "Andy books the acts and because he knows everyone on the circuit he gets some of the best new acts. We try our best not to get too many who die on their behind. It does happen from time to time, but that can sometimes be more entertaining than watching the successes."

"It’s very different from Headliners which is a bigger show, bigger comics who are fantastic hence it’s more of a show you watch. This is much more social bit like a clubbing thing rather than a show, it’s more intimate, more unpredictable."

But don't take her word for it, Mixt Nutz is on at The Tabard Pub every Thursday evening from 8.00pm.

Emma Brophy

December 1, 2008