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Culture

Meeting Myra Dubois

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Myra

The self-declared ‘siren of South Yorkshire’, Myra Dubois is righting a historical wrong by returning to Oxford following a covid-induced cancellation during her last tour. Be Well is a sardonic side-eye at the Wellness Industrial Complex, calling out the ‘celebrity snake oil merchants’ with her acid-tongued, quick-witted comedy that is guaranteed to leave you in a better mood than when you came in.

What inspired you to create a show around wellness, and what can audiences expect from Be Well?

Audiences can expect a show that interrogates the wellness industrial complex – especially the corners of it that are celebrity-endorsed. It’s my firm belief that all the other celebrities on the market are snake oil merchants, they’re hokums, they’re humbugs, and I will send every member of that audience out in a better mood than they entered. 

How are you feeling about coming to Oxford?

I’m looking forward to it. I performed at Oxford many years ago when I was in an entertainment ensemble called Eat Your Heart Out. When I did my last tour, Dead Funny, we didn’t get an opportunity to come to Oxford because we had to move it all for Covid, and Oxford was one of those dates that never quite got sorted so I feel like this is long overdue. Not only am I looking forward to it, I feel like I’m righting a historical wrong by visiting Oxford. 

I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your AdMyrism Manifesto; can you give us a glimpse into what that’s all about and how it ties into your comedy?

Well, AdMyrism is my own personal wellness belief system. Do you know Joan Crawford released a book in the 80s called My Way of Life and it was page after page on how she likes to live day-to-day, domestically? How she keeps her home, how she hosts a dinner party, that kind of thing. AdMyrism is my version of that. It’s how I live my life and I’m trying to impart it with the audience, and do you know what Eloise? I live my life by loving myself, I’m a self-admirer and I walk onto the stage, and I try and encourage the audience to direct some of that love that they feel for me back at themselves.

You’re also touring with Frank Lavender…

Oh, let’s not spoil the interview with any conversations about that so-called comedian – he calls himself a comedian but there’s very little evidence of that claim apparent on stage. He is my brother-in-law and the only reason that I have him on the tour is because it makes the audience that little bit more grateful when I come on stage, by which point, I’ve broken them in the same way that prophets might starve themselves in the desert for 40 days.

Do you think the comedy industry it’s a welcoming place?

I wouldn't call myself a part of the comedy scene, I just do my shows and people laugh. I find the comedy scene to be very heavily gatekept. There are rules and regulations about who can and can’t come through, and to this day I do not feel a part of that. I don’t get booked for the line-up shows and I just find that unless you are part of the gang, you don’t fit in and comedy will let you know. I think I’m either repeating someone’s material here or I’m being indiscreet with an antidote that was said backstage, so I won’t name the comedian who said it, but if you’re reading this, and it’s your material, then I apologise. There’s a phenomenon where you come off stage and the other comedians are surprised that you were funny. Like they can’t believe it because you’re not on the approved list. They always come to you and say, ‘You were great!’ with an ever so slightly condescending tone. That’s why I just put my head down, create my content, and do my shows. Amongst many bad things, one of the good things about social media is that it’s sort of levelled the playing field a little bit. You've got access to people now, I have found my tribe, and my tribe has found me. I’m a beacon, I think that’s what I’m saying. 

You’re a self-declared siren of South Yorkshire – how has your hometown has influenced your comedic style and the person you've become?

There is certainly a regional sort of way of thinking that I think infuses my work. I was socialised and raised in a pre-internet era, so we weren't quite as globalised are we are now. The regional differences that defined and shaped us are dissipating a little bit, and there are some people who see that a loss of something and I don’t think it is, I think it’s the creation of something new. I think the way I organise myself, the way I talk and my philosophy on life is very Yorkshire. Then again, people are the same wherever you go. I’ve worked in Australia and when I go there, they’re exactly the same as they are anywhere else. People are people, each with little flavourings. I think pantomime has a huge influence on how I work because it’s all about being connected with the audience and that’s a very big thing for me – that’s very British, so there might be something in that. 

Your performances in general often exude a sense of glamour. How does incorporating glamour into your comedy play into the overall experience for your audience?

Well, people just want something nice to look at, don’t they? I think theatre is a sensory experience and you've got to think about everything so for this show I made a very conscious effort to illicit joy and pleasure from people’s senses. So, for example the music includes deliberate ear worms, for the costumes I picked a pink, blue and yellow colour scheme which I later found out is the pansexual pride flag so I’m accidentally representing the pansexuals. The jewellery is big, the gowns are big – my friend Jared (who works in retail) once said to me that fashion is about how it makes you feel and how it makes other people feel and I think that about my stage wear. Does it make me feel powerful? Do the audience enjoy looking at it? Good, then there we go, that’s all you need from a frock on stage.

The Tory Conference speech by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has left many people feeling hurt and disgusted. What advice would you give to trans people and allies at this time?

Take comfort in each other and be patient. Margaret Thatcher – another f**king c**t – stood at the same conference about 30 years ago and lectured us on how children are wrongfully being taught that they have an “inalienable right to be gay.” Remember how antiquated that speech looks today, remember how stupid she looks and just take comfort in it, because this will pass. Look out for each other, be kind to each other, give yourself space and room to be hurt and wounded but galvanise and mobilise because this will not stand the test of history. F**k them all. You can have that in cold hard print.

What’s next for you?

The pantomime. That’s a different tone, isn’t it? I’m appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk at The Manchester Opera House with Jason Manford and Ben Nicholas, so I’m very much looking forward to that because I love pantomime. Next year, I’m returning to the Vauxhall Tavern in London for a series of residencies. I’m scaling back my work though because this year I’ve toured Australia, the UK, I’ve done Edinburgh and now I’m knackered so next year I’m just doing one gig a month at the Vauxhall Tavern and then I’m going on lots of holidays. 

Image credit: Ben Ephgrave

Myra is bringing Be Well to The Glee Club on 29 October.

myradubois.co.uk

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