Every two weeks or so, you can find Victoria Garo-Falides, 38, hosting Funny Boiler – a pro comedy night that has provided a place for names such as Lou Sanders, Simon Brodkin and Mae Martin to perform. Along with MCing duties, she produces the night, booking acts, selling tickets and promoting events.
The night I see her in action, the headliner is Al Murray, doing his pub landlord shtick, pint in hand, most of which ends up on the floor. He manages to down a few gulps while setting the audience alight. Victoria’s glee at being able to secure this legend of the British comedy scene was documented on all its socials. It was even more intense in the flesh:
“I can’t believe I’m saying this but next up, we have the one, the only AL MURRAY” She bellowed into the crowd, before he took to the silver of a stage.
By day, the venue on Hackney Road, which seats an audience of 35, is a Mac repair shop, but by night it transforms into The Natural Philosopher, a speakeasy cocktail bar with a makeshift stage.
This was the kind of venue that Victoria longed for, somewhere in the heart of East London, with no other comedic commitments. A place to make her mark, and shift the scene to something she wanted to craft.
“I want somewhere to make my own”
I meet her as its day façade is up, before the 8pm show, so Victoria whisks me off up the road to the Mama Hotel. This is one of her favourite haunts: the kaleidoscopic interiors of the chic lobby and the mish mash vibe sum up Victoria; loud, carefree and presentable despite trying to seem not.
The thing she wanted to craft the most was herself, she says to me, as she neatly cuts up her avocado on toast. She recounts getting married, moving to Bournemouth and popping out a kid, she realised this was not the life she was meant for: “We are now happily divorced,” she says.
Victoria cites her daughter as being an inspiration to progress her comedy career, which started two years ago. Before this, she studied at Mountview Theatre School. After graduation, she dabbled in acting, but makes most of her living from entertainment and showbusiness journalism.
While reading her daughter a bedtime story, she had her eureka moment. “It was book where you choose your life… she asked me what I’d choose, and there was one that was on stage, and I said to my daughter, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my dream, that one there.’”
She said this made her wonder what on earth she was waiting for?
“Life is too short, and honestly, I wanted to show my daughter that you can do anything, even if you are deemed past it by showbiz standards”
Fast forward to now, and she’s loving life. There exists the best of both worlds; the domestic goddess when she’s in Bournemouth and then the crazy party animal in London, alternating weekly.
She tells me with a glint in her eye that she loves that she does stand-up and still manages to be on the Parent Teachers Association. It is what she is most proud of, judging the way she lights up when talks about it.
“I help the kids out with their reading one week, and then the next week, I’m telling blow job jokes with Al Murray. None of the other parents know. I love it.” Victoria has a secret life of mischief, hidden an under a cloak of respectability.
Some of her material stems from being a parent – she claims her act is just a dragged up version of herself, describing it as “bad trashy mum.” Something she makes great point to say that she’s not.
She teases to the crowd that when she’s looking after her daughter and friends she refers to them as skids because has no idea where they came from.
She talks about her daughter with great affection. “Despite everything I try to teach her about being anything she wants, she still just wants Barbies, which I rate.” She rolls her eyes and mutters about how little girls might just sometimes be little girls.
She enjoys making using her femininity in the same way that men use their masculinity to make them laugh. She says, while this brings her happiness, it’s also a source of frustration. On the whole, she says, men do not tend to really laugh at women’s jokes.
“People get confused because if a woman goes on stage the men think, do I want to fuck her?” Victoria says. A lot of men are not used to thinking that women might just want to make you laugh, and nothing more.
“Our job isn’t to be funny. Our job is to have babies and to look nice … men do the funny and then get the money,” she says, adding that this revelation is not ground breaking, but a common grievance aired by women comics.
Victoria believes this makes it harder to succeed as a female comic because 50 per cent of the population has a harder time finding you funny. Also, she acknowledges women’s apprehension at other women as they gauge them competition: the question, is this woman my friend or not goes through their heads, she says.
Christopher Hitchens’ 2011 Vanity Fair essay comes up – a piece that argues that women have no evolutionary need to be funny. We touch upon the threats to women in comedy, too – namely the fears around getting home safely by yourself after a gig. Back in the 1960s, this was something Joan Rivers mined for material. Over 50 years later, this reality has not gone away.
She cited the Australian comic Eurydice Dixon was murdered on the way home from a performance in 2018. The police seemed to be blaming it on her being alone at night. This victim blaming sparked a backlash – lots of women can relate to being freaked out about going out after dark by themselves, with keys smushed between their fists. “My rather expensive solution is my chauffeur, Mr Uber”
Victoria has a supportive boyfriend. Luke accompanies her to most of her gigs, and without fail films all of the Funny Boiler nights. Does this make the whole thing easier for her?
She tells me about palming off the practical heavy lifting onto him, because despite being a strong feminist, she knows the importance of delegation.
“I’m not technically minded at all,” she says while she sets up lighting and mics on stage.
She gets the high-profile names through Twitter. She slid into Lou Sander’s direct messages with what she tells me is a completely earnest fan letter. They got to talking, and this concluded with Sanders performing at Funny Boiler. She then pointed her in the direction of more people to book, and the set lists snowballed.
I asked her if she has plans for expanding the night, and she tells me she’s dreaming of big things.
“Yeah, like the Comedy Store, but feminist.”