Having joined the comedy society at the University of Birmingham. Rachel Baker began gigging two years ago and this month she’s performing at Glee
Comic Rachel Baker has been shortlisted for the Birmingham Comedy Festival’s Breaking Talent Award which recognises the best new and emerging comedic talent from across the West Midlands and she’s ‘overjoyed’. Naturally, we nabbed Rachel for a chat ahead of the awards where the shortlisted acts will perform in front of judges, including Jo Enright, at the Glee Club.
Growing up, Rachel says her big inspirations were Caroline Aherne in The Royal Family, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters. Rachel describes her own brand of comedy as ‘hectic in a controlled way’ and says: “If I have a thought, I say it. I go off script and I suppose it’s a bit cheeky. I’m quite physical taking inspiration from character comics and I’ve been likened to Jennifer Saunders in Ab Fab.” Rachel occasionally does a character called Gwen aged 47 who is runs a multi-level marketing scheme and has a boyfriend aged 23. It sounds a hoot.
Audience interaction is a given. She says: “I like finding the funniness in the room. I’ve done lots of new material nights in Birmingham which are fun. The audience is not expecting it to be perfect and I like the feedback and chatting to them. Each gig is different. I’ve just started getting more paid gigs so obviously the material is more honed.”
Mainly gigging in and around Brum until now, work is beginning to come from further afield although Rachel says she might need to learn to drive pronto as the train is cripplingly expensive. The day job at Mac arts is one she loves. Rachel said: “The programme is eclectic and it’s such a nice hub in Birmingham. Sometimes I’m in the cinema, sometimes the art gallery and sometimes helping kids after school.” It might also provide material as she says she has some funny interactions. “People are just funny day-to-day aren’t they? It’s fascinating to think about what’s funny.”
Of the Birmingham scene she says it’s a ‘really nice community’ with many friendly and inclusive spaces popping up. Barbara Nice, aka comic Janice Connolly, has been particularly supportive. Rachel says: “She’s built a community and championed women particularly. The first gig I did in front of her I got such brilliant feedback.” Nice’s the Hare of The Dog night at the Hare and Hounds is a favourite of Rachel. She says: “It’s brilliant and joyful. There’s lots of dancing and improv and largely return audiences.”
This year’s Comedy Festival will be Rachel’s first time performing at Glee and she says: “I’m really looking forward to it but also a bit scared and intimidated. A friend said to me ‘it’s a great opportunity, just have loads of fun with it’ which I will. Sometimes I’ve performed to an audience of three or four which is fun, but it will be a treat to be in a lovely venue like this.” In terms of the future, Rachel says: “Definitely I would like comedy not to be a hobby.”