" I am too talented to be a reality TV star."
She's been performing stand-up comedy for 10 years, but it was after taking part in hit E4 show Celebs Go Dating that things really took off for London Hughes and as she returns to the Fringe, London admits to me that only after Celebs Go Dating did people begin to pay attention to her.
We discuss how she feels about being labelled as a reality TV star, her travel show with Whoopi Goldberg which nobody wanted and of course what audiences can expect from her new show To Catch A Dick.
How did you first get started in comedy?
I was at Kingston University studying Television Studies and I was working at TGI Fridays and auditioning for every single show under the sun. I nearly got on Big Brother! I auditioned 4 times… back when it was classy, when Davina did it! (Laughs)
The dream was to be on TV and get into TV. I’d always wanted to but I just didn’t know how to do it. I had no idea that comedy was the answer to be honest.
I got sacked from TGI Fridays because I was late and we had a new boss who was like “One strike and you’re out”. He was horrible, but thank God he sacked me because I got sacked on the Saturday and that Sunday I got invited to a comedy show.
That comedy show was every Sunday and I could never go because I was working so I went and that was the first time I’ve ever seen stand-up ever! I literally looked at these comedians like “WOW. This is amazing! I could do this.”
Not because I wanted it as a career or anything, it was just because the way they made people laugh reminded me of how I make people laugh all the time. I thought if I actually applied myself, I might be able to do a set. So I wrote some material, performed it at my University talent show and invited the comedians along that I’d met at the comedy show. I didn’t expect them to come, but they did and I smashed my set and the next thing you know, I’m a comedian!
Since we last spoke then, what's been happening?
Since we last spoke, it's been crazy! It's been a crazy year. People have really started to change their perceptions of women in comedy, a lot more opportunities have opened for women, especially black women. Not as much as they should be but I've definitely noticed a change.
Things are going really well in America, crazily well!
Are you finding that America are more accepting of women on television than we are?
100%. Especially women in comedy. Here we're an afterthought when it comes to comedy. There are way more opportunities. I'm signed now to UTA in America, I have the same agent as Kevin Hart and Andy Samberg so I'm in great hands.
I'm working on two different TV sitcoms right now in America, both in development and both starring me which is insane!
I have zero sitcoms in development in the UK despite working here for 10 years and I have two in development in America having never worked there at all.
Your first Edinburgh Fringe show was in 2017, why didn't you return in 2018?
2017 was crazy because I spent nearly £10,000 on my show and it was a great show but I felt like people weren't ready to hear it. I had lots of interest, amazing support and a lot of people saw it, but it didn't make the impact that I wanted it to.
I perhaps wasn't in that position in my career where people were even caring or ready to listen. Then when I came back from Edinburgh in 2017 I was really happy with the work that I put in and then I landed Celebs Go Dating and everyone was like "Oh my God, who's this girl?". After Celebs Go Dating, that's when everyone started paying attention.
I did plan on going back to Edinburgh in 2018 but I was so busy with work that I genuinely didn't have the time. I also didn't have anything more to say in 2018. I feel like I said it all in 2017.
In 2017 I was saying "I'm a black girl in comedy. I want to be a household name. Why is it that I can't be a household name? I want to get signed in America." and basically everything I said then happened to me in 2018.
I also said I wanted to be the next Whoopi Goldberg and I landed a TV show with Whoopi which believe it or not, the show that she agreed to do, we took to every channel in the UK and they all said no.
That was a huge story at the start of the year. Were you were surprised by the reaction to your tweet?
I was totally surprised by the reaction and was so humbled that my tweet went viral and people started caring and realising that it's so unfair the way women in comedy are being treated compared to men.
When I tweeted, it was New Year's Day and I was upset because I had this show with Whoopi Goldberg ready to go, the production company was in place and no channel wanted it. I told my followers what happened and I said it's funny how Russell Howard, Romesh Ranganathan, Joel Dommett, Nish Kumar, Jack Whitehall and all these other comedians can have TV shows with their mums and their friends and their dads and their sons in Bradley Walsh's case - where as me and Whoopi Goldberg couldn't even get a travel show off the ground.
Since then people have started realising how unfair it was but I didn't take it personally because it came to light that there are so many female comedians who haven't had a travel show or had their idea for a travel show rejected. From Gina Yashere to Tiffany Stevenson to Meera Syal so I couldn't take it personally.
Where's that project with Whoopi Goldberg at now?
Well since then, ITV have shown interest and we made a teaser for them so I'm still waiting to hear if it's a yay or a nay. And even my agent tells me that there's been more of a call for female travel shows since my tweet. She's had emails now from companies and channels directly asking for female-led travel shows and I kickstarted all that so even if nothing comes of it for m in this country at least I said something and it made a difference.
That being said, I am so happy to take my show with Whoopi Goldberg to America because that's clearly where I'm wanted.
What can people expect from your show this year?
The show To Catch a Dick is all about my love life, my sex life, losing my virginity and there are no holes barred. It's basically an hour-long breakdown of everything I feel about relationships and dating as a woman and a woman in comedy.
I talk about the fact that I'm a successful woman and if I was a man as fit as I am now and as successful as I am now, with the money I have now I would not be finding it hard to find a girlfriend or wife. But as a woman in my position, for some reason it's harder.
It's so much harder for successful women to find guy interested in them. Especially funny women. So I talk about how male comics who aren't really that fit have all these stunning amazing girlfriends. Honestly, google any male comic and look at their girlfriend or wife, they are absolutely stunning. Every male comic is punching with their mrs.
It doesn't work the other way around. You never see an average looking female comedian with a fucking fit stunning male boyfriend. It just doesn't happen, so I talk about that and call that out.
And it was a no brainer to call it To Catch a Dick.
Is this year's Edinburgh a way to show people that outside of the TV work, you are a stand-up?
I'm lucky enough that I've been able to do everything. I've presented shows, I've acted in shows and I can also do stand-up. I've put stand-up on the back burner because I love TV so much, being on TV, making TV, that's my passion - but I am a stand-up at heart.
I'm not a reality TV star and I don't want people to think that for one second. Since Celebs Go Dating people want to label me as a reality TV star but I have talent. I am too talented to be a reality TV star. I am just someone who happens to be good at their job but also I have a fun personality.
A lot of actors pretend to be other people, a lot of comedians have alter egos. They go on stage and they're funny, but in real life, they're not that funny. They're normal and don't want to be centre of attention. That's not me babe! What you see on stage is what you see in real life which works for the reality TV world.
How long have you been working on this year's show for?
I've pretty much been writing everything funny I've ever said for the past year. Every funny sex encounter. Every bad date. Every thought I've had about dating, about women, about men - from their penis size to celebrity crushes. Everything!
It's so cathartic getting it out on paper and performing it because it makes me realise that I'm not crazy and I'm not alone in these thoughts. My audiences are predominately women and I'm such a feminist that I feel like women, especially women in comedy, are making sure that we can't say this stuff because it's taboo or filthy because she's talking about sex.
She's a female comic so she can't talk about female stuff. NAH! It's 2019, I'm gonna say what's on my mind.
Have you found it quite easy then to fill the hour?
Oh my god! My first preview was two hours long! I've got too much material. I've had to cut it down and lose some killer stuff. I'm being so ruthless but hopefully I can use stuff I've cut in a TV show because there's so much!
I'm so happy that I'm in a position to perform this material.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?
In 2017 I went to Edinburgh as someone that maybe nobody had their eyes on and I felt like I had a lot to prove. This year I'm just having fun! In September I'm flying out to LA to work on my TV show. This is the most no-pressure Edinburgh I've ever had. I'm going up to have fun, see my fans and give them what they want.
I'm giving them me and getting people who have heard me on podcasts or seen me on TV a chance to see me in a different light. I feel no pressure. I've got a great venue, a great slot and I'm literally going to have the best Edinburgh ever! I'm not going to be stressed. I'm not going to be worried about reviews. I'm not going to care if people don't like it. This show won't be for everyone but this is a bit of me.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I always have to have a pre-show pee. Even if I don't need to, it's bad luck if I don't do it!
Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform?
Sofie Hagen. That's my homegirl. Lou Sanders. Again, homegirl. Fern Brady. Jayde Adams, The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face sounds hilarious and I've heard great things! They're my girls! I think this is the year of the women you know? There are some bad-ass females going up this year.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
I'm going to be in the Amusical TV special in August on Comedy Central and let me just say that it's probably the most entertaining half-an-hour you'll ever witness ever in your life. Jayde (Adams) and Kiri (Pritchard-McLean) absolutely kill it as hosts. They should be the next Mel and Sue, they are what we need to see women on TV doing.
Then I come out and absolutely smash the balls off of it! It's the best thing I've ever done. It's the best thing I've ever been a part of. I haven't seen it yet but I've been told by people that have that it's insane. Being there, the audience were electric and everything from the backing dancers to the live band, it's such an amazing show! It's a masterclass on how to create a TV show that has it all - comedy, dance, singing, live band.
Then I'll be back on Don't Hate The Playaz on ITV2, that's out in the autumn. I'm so excited about that show. It's the coolest show I've ever been a part of. It's a lot of fun and I'm so happy that ITV have allowed this show to happen. It's literally no holes barred comedy and music. And the fact that that many black people are on TV at the same time - it's women, it's black women on TV - it's amazing.
I've got more surprises up my sleeve which I can't reveal just yet but just remember September 9th, 2019. There will be a big announcement!
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
London Hughes is back bitches!
London Hughes: To Catch a Dick runs from 31st July - 25th August (not 12th) at 8.15pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Attic). Book tickets here.