Ava Vidal is a British comedian, writer and social commentator. Born in London in 1976 to Dominican and Bajan parents, Ava had her first child aged 18, then spent five years working as a prison officer at Pentonville Prison. Watching a Chris Rock routine inspired her to pursue a career in comedy. Ava juggles motherhood with stand-up, writing and TV appearances. She has appeared on programmes such as Mock the Week, and Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow.
BB: Ava, you’ve had a varied career. Recently you’ve become a political commentator. Was this related to your comedy?
AV: My political views are reflected in my comedy, so people wanted to know more. I was asked to write articles and it grew from there. I definitely would not be getting on programmes like Newsnight if it wasn’t for my comedy, but I was always political. As a black person it’s forced on you from an early age – even our hair is regarded as political. I had my Afro out on Mock the Week and was asked if I was making a political statement.
BB: It’s ridiculous that wearing our natural hair is considered political, or ‘unprofessional.’ What has your experience of being a black female comedian been like?
AV: Any black woman in the public eye is a target. I have the usual nonsense black women get anywhere. Female comedians have to work harder anyway, and black ones even more so. Anytime a black woman makes the most meagre progress in the industry, people claim she didn’t work for it. But there is so much we can’t do. For example Simon Brodkin, the comedian who handed Theresa May a fake P45 during her party conference speech, is known for his outrageous pranks on the public. But we all know that no black or brown comedian would be able to access the spaces he does because we’d be so heavily scrutinised. That kind of comedy is not even an option for us.
When you’re a black comedian and you want to talk about your life people say, ‘Oh, why have you got to talk about being black?’ Comedy is just a version of the rest of society. It’s perfectly acceptable for an Irish or Scottish comedian to talk about being Irish or Scottish, or a redheaded comedian to talk about being redheaded, but when black people do it, it becomes a problem.