feature: interview with Big Mouth duo, Lauren and Isabella!
Between the forces of humour and friendship, Lauren and Isabella have created an all-female production and events company called Big Mouth, shining the light on marginalised comedians and entertainers!
The inspiring duo are putting on another show this Thursday with all proceedings going to the Justice4Grenfell organisation. In the past, Big Mouth has raised over £4,000 for important charities like The Albert Kennedy Trust, an LGBT youth homelessness charity. The last tickets for this weeks event are on sale now, so be sure to grab one or many!
We caught up with Lauren and Isabella to talk more about their hopes for Big Mouth, their latest podcast show and ultimately their friendship. For more information on this weeks event, please follow this link for the event page. You can keep up with everything Big Mouth via their instagram here!
Illustrations by @cressidadjambov
Tell us about Big Mouth?
Isabella: We saw a hole for under-representation for women, poc and LGBQT within the comedy circuit. Every comedy night we went too was mostly white males, and their stories have been told for centuries. It doesn’t give any hope to anyone wanting to start out unless you’re a straight white boy, in which case the audience is ALL yours. There’s no excuse for lack of diversity and equality in comedy yet it’s all we’re seeing. We wanted to create events with a line up reflecting the city we lived in. Alongside our Comedy events we write, we want to write nostalgically to those times and people that we’ve grown with/ are growing up alongside without the stereotypes, overturn the expectation that most audiences would usually expect from female writers and with our podcasts we want to interview women killing it in their whatever field they are in.
You’ve organized fundraisers for domestic violence, LGBT youth homelessness and now Grenfell, what is it about these issues within our society that draw you in?
Isabella: There are so often overlooked, the charities we choose resonate with us and need funding and attention. Targeting the smaller charities where the money really does help rather than hardly touching the sides if you were donating to a larger one.
Lauren: The way our comedy nights work is that we theme our line-ups around the charity we are raising money for – so for Refuge it was all women and for AKT it was an entirely LGBTQAI+ line-up. The world of comedy is so heavily dominated by straight white men (thought tbh, find me a world that isn’t), so selecting these Charites is extra-beneficial because it creates room for the kind of acts we ourselves want to see; we’ve never booked a straight white man and that is my proudest achievement to date.
Tell us about your friendship? How did you both meet?
Isabella: Lauren’s been my biggest fan since 1994. we met when we were in 2 at Ballet, I’ve been in love since to be honest. We share the same humour, which thankfully is a bonus when working and writing together. I can be a bit emotional vomit sometimes when dealing with certain issues within the company and she manages to keep it in line and be my right arm. The dynamic between us has just fallen into place she’s very much like my sister, which allows room and space for us to really to get to work on our visions for the company. We’re both Pisces need I say more?
Lauren: Meeting when we were two makes for quite a rare friendship in that we knew each other before we knew ourselves. God bless the phases she has seen me through and the number of skater boys I have had to watch come in and out of her life. We’re very different people in a lot of ways, but the thing we have most in common is our sense of humour which I think is why we’ve found ourself doing Big Mouth.
How do you think working with your best friend is an advantage when you’re starting your own business?
Isabella: We have trust and respect for each other which is probably the best starting point. It's easy to have too many ideas and wanting to tackle them all at once, luckily Lauren’s made sure we do it at a pace that works so people can digest who we are and what we do. It just works, I’m not sure how to describe it. We have so much fun together and if Big Mouth continues to grow and in the direction, we want it too and that means I can do this with my best friend forever and that’s pretty cool.
Lauren: We really, really trust each other which is so important and helpful in running a business. We also have very similar taste which removes a lot of potential conflict. We also know ourselves, each other and our dynamic really well so we’re very good at knowing each other strengths/weaknesses and we play to them.
You both are fulfilling your comedy night dreams entirely on weekends and in the evenings, what do you both do as full-time jobs?
Isabella: I work in TV for Animal Planet on a reality show called Dr Jeff Rocky Mountain vet, lol. I spend my days looks at cats uterus's and horse dicks, I dunno how I found myself here tbh. Luckily I work with very generous people who are teaching me how TV works, and knowledge is power in this predominately male-heavy industry.
Lauren: I’ve worked in casting for film for the last 5 years
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to develop a business idea in their own time and space?
Isabella: Understand that it takes time, it’s not an overnight process and you really have to be working at it constantly, Big Mouth is our baby so we will do whatever we can to make it work. Know what your intentions are and how you identify yourself with your business, there’s a lot of competition but if you’re doing it for yourself, it becomes your own brand, I hate the word brand but it’s true.
Lauren: You must. It’s really daunting, but if you fail no one even has to know! And if you feel like you’re unable to do it alone, just talking about an idea you have can open doors and networking opportunities that will get your idea off the ground. Ultimately, do not be embarrassed by your ambitions!
You both often show an interest in female comedians, is there something you typically see from female comics that draws you in?
Lauren: I think comedy is funnier when you can relate to it, so it’s quite natural that I gravitate towards female comedians.
Isabella: I find the humour is sharper, they talk about what they want and who they want, it’s more relatable. I love women’s outlook on life because it’s always so different from one to the next. You learn something new listening to them, it’s full of life, sometimes a ton of pent-up anger, to hear that told in a comedy form is brilliant. It’s been the norm for so long for women to be polite in their stand up, that’s changing, the more explicit the better.
Tell us about the comic industry and how Mouth is Big might shake it up?
Isabella: We just want to see better comedians? Lol. We’re a female based production company, we set out to provide the audience and give a platform to those, who challenge prejudice, speak about race, argue about equality, and just make us laugh through their story telling. So many comics have become friends and have worked together since our nights so if it can double as a networking event too then that’s dope, something extraordinary that happens when females all work together. There’s definitely a notion that an all-female lead production company are here to make sure men never work again and that we go home and burn pictures of men we hate and sure I do that in my spare time but the truth is I love guys! There just isn’t enough movement with equality and diversity in comedy, so please move aside for a hot second so we can help make that happen.
Lauren: We are not the first people to create a platform that prioritises comedy from women / POC / LGBTQAI+ comedians – we just hope to extend the one that already exists and create a fun, comfortable atmosphere that people love.
Who are your favourite comedians and why?
Lauren: I am convinced Aubrey Plaza is the woman I am meant to marry. I also love Bridget Christie, Thaniya Moore, Mae Martin, Natasha Rothwell and Fathia El-Ghorri (who is hosting the next Big Mouth! #plug). We also had Twayna Mayne perform at our last night and I quite literally fell backwards off my chair on the side of the stage.
Isabella: Aparna Nancherla is my lover from another mother, she doesn’t know me. Phoebe Robinson, Michelle Buteau, Sarah Silverman, Ayaana Dookie, Jo Brand, Mae Martin (my soon to be girlfriend), Twanya Mae actually all the women we’ve used in our nights I adore. They’ve definitely inspired me to write and perform without fear. Whether it’s politics, sex, Uber drivers, family, religion they speak about these topics in such a relatable manner, and that’s what great comedy should be.
Isabella, how did you get into comedy? And what are your favourite styles of performance?
Isabella: I trained as an actor, but realized very quickly that comedy was what was going to carry me through as a career and get me noticed. I wanted to start telling real stories about real people and stand up was a great way to begin that. I trained at UCB for improve and realised how much freedom it can give you to create work. It’s just so much fun. It’s is an opportunity to take control of the room and speak about my insecurities (cause who can afford therapy?) and life in an observational, storytelling style, that I hope can someone in the audience can relate too. I don’t care if they are laughing at me or with me, a reaction is all I want, it’s definitely given me a thick skin. My confidence is still a little low in navigating what my voice is and how it can then be similar to big mouth and the podcast but I’m only 26 so I guess I’m still getting to know myself, so I just keep writing about that.
Lauren, you’re in casting full time outside of Big Mouth, how does this work impact decision making with the Big Mouth project?
Lauren: I guess it can be quite helpful in terms of knowing how to talk to agents and managers, and I also have a good knowledge of actors and performers because of my casting background. Mostly though, the two feel very separate to me and I quite like it that way!
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt since running events for such important causes?
Isabella: How generous people are and how stressful self promotion can be but also how charities can bring everyone together and create a sense of community, there's so many ways people can help. I hope it gets people talking and doing more.
Lauren: That something is always more important than the issue at hand. We’ve had last-minute drop-outs, tube strikes, clashes with the World Cup, rudeness thrown at us – but when these things happening we barely blink because we’re doing the nights for something we care about which really puts our stress / momentary worries into perspective.
Your very first guest was Ayanna Dookie, who else are you looking to get on the show?
Lauren: Honestly, our wish list for the podcast is as long a Monday on a hangover.
Isabella: We have a couple of people in the pipeline at the moment, which is exciting but truly anyone that we have an interest in.
You’re working on developing some really lovely podcasts under Mouth is Big, what is your goal with working on this area of broadcasting?
Lauren: Again, it’s largely to provide a platform for the kind of comedians and creatives we care about. Often interviews are either very work-centric or ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ style chat, and we want to build a bridge between these. Also, hearing people’s creative journey’s, triumphs and setbacks is something I find so motivating, and we want to create tangible access to this.
Isabella: People often, including myself put anyone they admire on a pedestal making them unreachable. Everyone is human, everyone has a story and sometimes it’s nice to just switch off and listen to someone talk about their life. Everybody’s fascinated by fame, I think getting someone off from in front of the camera and just listening to their voice, it makes it more special and less about what they look like or what you know about them and more so who they are. We hope it inspires listeners to go out and get what they want using their lives and experiences, good or bad as source of inspiration rather than it holding them back.
If you had a show with any one person in the world, who would it be and what would you like to talk about?
Isabella: Probably my Mum and Dad so I can keep their voices and stories alive forever #emotional.
We really enjoyed the way you’re including death row meal questions on your podcast, who would be your ultimate death row comedian companion to have your meal with?
Isabella: Pete Davidson and he can be my meal too.
Lauren: Aubrey Plaza, again – wife me
What Mouth is Big productions should we keep an eye out for in the new year ?
Isabella: We’ll be starting a skin care range and sunglasses line, might drop our cookbook who knows. No,there’s lots to come, just busy breaking that glass ceiling tbh.
Lauren: Definitely more comedy nights! Our next one is coming up on Thursday 22nd November where we’ll be raising money for Justice 4 Grenfell – the line up bangs and all the money made goes to J4G. We’ll also have new podcast episodes dropping regularly both on iTunes and our website www.mouthisbig.com Some other exciting stuff in the pipeline that we’re keeping quiet about for now!