Olivia Lee Losing Her Total F**ing Sh*t
- Credit: Archant
The Muswell Hill comic returns to stand-up to vent her rage at relentless positivity, toxic femininity and owning your angry inner self
Olivia Lee's manifesto on 'toxic femininity' is sweary, explicit and refreshingly honest.
After a career pulling camera pranks on the likes of Balls of Steel, Dirty Sexy Funny, and the Olivia Lee show, the Muswell Hill comic says Mindful Mum: How Not To Lose Your Total F***ing Sh*t is the most personal thing she's done.
"I have never done a project that's more me, so much of my comedy or acting has been hiding behind characters or saying other people's words but this is from deep inside."
Not that Lee's CD and stand up show is about yoga stretches and meditation - quite the opposite.
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Rather it's the 37-year-old's "two fingered salute" to the mantra of curing motherhood's challenges with relentless positivity and deep breathing.
Sometimes an expletive-laden shout, a good cry, or kicking the wall will make you feel better says Lee.
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"We're not allowed to own our negativity and anger, to say 'it's ok to have bad days, and sometimes parenting is sh*t','" she says.
"But mindfulness is about honouring all your feelings - even the dark pit of rage welling up in the core of your being."
Lee's work on Channel 4 and Jay Leno's Tonight Show is characterised by fearlessness and daring.
"My personality is very direct, I don't mince my words, butI have struggled with being labelled aggressive because I am assertive. There's a real allergy to female rage. This is a mothers guide to embracing your angry inner self."
With album tracks including 'how not to be the perfect mother' Lee wants to dismember women's harmful drive for the ideal.
"We hear all the time about toxic masculinity and how the patriarchy has fed men unhelpful messages, but what's the female equivalent?" she asks.
"That our anger is invalid. There is a long line of angry women portrayed in history as mad, bad or dangerous like witches. When we express our anger we are ugly or grotesque. We grew up being told to be obedient and well behaved, but we don't have please other people all the time." Lee feels that "any form of emotional suppression is uhealthy".
"In the same way that men are supressing their emotions of sadness and vulnerability, we are suppressing our anger. What happens is women turn it inwards - take it out on ourseleves or each other - so it comes out in unhealthy behaviours like eating disorders or female bitching. That is symptomatic of supressed anger. Women are bitchy and manipultive because we don't have direct power."
The perfection issue became overwhelming after Lee had her now three year old son.
"As a new mum I was taking on perfection in a way my husband wasn't. He didn't seem to be internalising everything or to have that guilt that makes you go mad because you always feel you are failing. He celebrates what we have done instead of feeling bad about the things we haven't."
Then there's the so-called 'invisible load' for career women.
"I always wanted to be financially independent and now - thanks feminism - I am paying for half of eveyrthing but managing the entire house and all the child stuf. I've doubled my workload. That was really tough for me. My husband is great, he would do it if I asked him, but men just haven't grown up that way. You become the one who does all the thinking and worrying."
As well as a proper division of labour, and raising the next generation of men to "pick up the dirty socks and see housework as within their remit," she wants advice about being grateful to stop.
"I am so sick of being told to 'just meditate or do some yoga.' When you have a baby who is not sleeping and get 20 minutes to yourself while they nap, they want me to stick on a track telling me to paper over my festering pit of rage instead of dealing with it.
"I don't want to be grateful, I want to punch the wall or have a good cry, then I might feel better. The positivity culture is a continuation of the narrative of being perfect. Frustration and sadness are part of the normal human experience.
"It's not a bad thing that my son sees conflict or sees me being imperfect, exposing him to the nuances of human behaviour is more healthy than growing up in an angry house or being like my parents' generation who just got on with it. Hopefully he won't judge himself too harshly for feeling down sometimes."
And she adds:"Besides, I've never met anyone who is positive all the time, well I have a friend in America who manages it, but she's mad."
Having just finished filming another series of Idris Elba's sit-com The Long Run, Lee's gigs at Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park are works in progress ahead of a tour next year. She confesses the warm-ups are all on the northern line because her comic husband Dan Renton Skinner is on tour.
"Things can't change if we don't express our anger, we must believe we can change our situation and that our voices have a right to be heard. That's my problem, I can't keep my mouth shut!"
Olivia Lee Losing Her Total F**ing Sh*t is at Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park on November 13 and 15 acesandeightssaloonbar.com