First published on Wednesday the 20th of April, 2016, this piece comes in at number 16 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2016.
Alice Brine is a comedian and she is great. I know this because I live with her. I tried to interview her, but we ended up sitting at the table “yarn spinning” for over an hour. This is a “greatest hits” breakdown of that conversation.
Run me through how you got to where you are now?
Oh my god I don’t even know bro. It’s such a weird thing. At uni I did film, theatre and media studies – everything I did was comedy. If you wanna be a comedian that’s exactly what you should do.
Basically. One day I read this poem and the lecturer came down after and said to me, “you don’t need to do that. You don’t need to do anything other than comedy”, which is crazy because they tell you to do all this broad shit. So I did really well with comedy at school and uni, then went on to just fall into a job because I needed a job. What are you gonna do? You need a fucking job. I ended up working at a tech company and I guess I got fired from there. I don’t know if I got fired or made redundant.
Did a human resources person sit you down?
Yeah, but the woman was like, crying, and then she told me to go smoke cigarettes. It was crazy. Then I had an insurance job which was also miserable. The phone wouldn’t even ring, it’d just beep. I had to deal with people who were suffering tragic, horrible losses, but who wouldn’t be covered. The person would start crying and eventually hang up. I was so depressed and in denial. I had no idea what I was doing and I was so fucking scared of doing anything. I had an ego, and my friend said to me one night, “no one is going to care if you don’t do anything with your life, they’re only going to notice if you do”, and I was just like “oh my god!”
Do you find now you’ve made a name for yourself that it gives you a better platform to talk about shit you actually care about?
Yeah. I think the thing is I’m not scared. If no one gives a shit what I have to say I don’t care. When stuff happens on social media I’ll just react. I’ll put things out knowing the CEO of the company I work for is following me, but I do it anyway. I think other people would be more timid. I never thought I was going to talk about domestic violence publicly, but now I do. It’s not in comedy though, I don’t think there’s anything funny about it.
Did you notice more people paying attention to you after you wrote the Tony Veitch thing?
Yeah, it was real intense because all of a sudden people took me very seriously. I was like shit mate, if you come to my show it’s mostly just me talking about rice milk and earwax. But I do have strong opinions on important stuff. The reason things like that blowup isn’t because they’re clever, it’s just common sense. When someone does something really dumb, you can just take it and present it in a better way.
If you could say something to girls in high school feeling pressure to look, think, act and be a certain way, what would you say to them?
I think about this all the time. They still don’t teach sex-ed properly. They don’t talk about consent, they don’t talk about actually enjoying sex. Are you fucking kidding me? People have sex, it’s pretty much why the world goes round. It needs to be an extremely intense part of our education.
Do you think they need to be having conversations about consent, the male gaze, rape culture etc?
Absolutely, because people are so confused. There are guys out there who have no idea they’ve raped a girl and there are girls out there with no idea they’ve been raped, but they both feel weird and can’t figure out why. It’s like sending someone out on the road without a licence and yelling at them after they crash. We should be charging into schools right now, hijacking a chunk of it and starting a really long game strategy. “Boys don’t like me” is also a massive problem. I have an idea for a massive educational programme I want to get started that’s all about “but boys don’t like me”, and how the world is so much more than that. Do you remember being really young being fucking obsessed with it?
Just a boy liking you, like any boy. I would not be myself because of it. And there will always be that animal instinct to wanna change yourself, but it gets super out of control at high school.
So who, Alice Brine, inspires you to be better?
Really fucking big successful people. In the back of my head, the dream is I wanna be in the U.S. I want an HBO special. I have no idea how to get there or how to do that, but that’s what I want. That’s when I’ll be able to sleep. I don’t even know why I want that - it’s not for the fame, fuck no, the fame would be the hard part. I just love doing standup comedy so much. Talk to any comedian and they’ll give you a million reasons why it won’t happen, and sure, it probably won’t happen, but I don’t care, I’m still gonna try. I might get there and think it’s shit or get halfway through and see that what I need to do to get there’s actually not worth it, but at least I’ll know.
I’m nowhere near reaching that goal yet so I just set small goals along the way. You set goals that are so small they seem ridiculous. The next one for me would be Edinburgh. It’s similar to taking off all of your clothes at an airport and screaming “I have a bomb!” in terms of just how fucking horrible and terrifying it is. I’m aware of how brutal it will be, but I’m just gonna do it.
Yeah, but I’m gonna lose so much money. I will lose so much in Edinburgh. But I’m excited to go and lose all my money because that’s the dream.
Alice’s NZ International Comedy Festival show BRINESTORM will be happening at Bats Theatre in Wellington April 26-30 and at Basement in Auckland May 10-14. You can buy tickets here.