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Emma Thompson on Her “Militant Feminist” Stand-Up Comedy Years

Emma Thompson on Her "Militant Feminist" Stand-Up Comedy Years

Emma Thompson is her usual, delightfully candid self in a new interview with Vanity Fair. Promoting The Love Punch — her new gray-haired, 99-percenters’ comedy with Pierce Brosnan, in which they play a divorced couple who decide to steal a diamond necklace after their pension disappears into the ether — Thompson discusses her early years as a “militant feminist” stand-up comedienne, what kind of new femme-powerment film she wants to see next, and what’s wrong with actors in Hollywood, among other things. 

Here are some highlights from the truly excellent interview: 

“There was one stand-up routine I used to do about thrush or candida [known in the U.S. as yeast infections]. I used to do a lot about sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t know about now but in the old days, when you got candida, you could sometimes treat it with natural yogurt. One of my gags was about sending my boyfriend out to get yogurt for the disease he had given me and him coming back with tropical-fruit-and-nut flavor, which just wasn’t what was needed. That used to get quite a big laugh.

“I think I was a fairly militant feminist at the time and I wanted to do material about the sexually transmitted diseases and them being largely to do with blokes who hadn’t washed themselves properly. The question of male hygiene was high on my list. I used to do a whole bit about how to wash your penis actually.

“And [the audiences] and I used to get on really well, because the girls would be yelling with laughter. And the blokes would be clutching their crotches, going, ‘Oh no, God. Please leave me alone.'”

Thompson believes that her feminism was better-received in the film industry than in the comedy world, but of course sexism in the former persists today: 

“I am sure I have the reputation as someone who will give an opinion, and I don’t think that is popular at any time with any woman. I think the new misogyny at the moment is that people with strengths or strong opinions are often not very popular.”

While making The Love Punch — and doing her own stunt-driving — she realized what’s lacking in the multiplex today: 

“I think it’s about time a 55-year-old British woman is the heroine of an action movie. I may have to write it. [Laughs]” 

Helen Mirren shouldn’t always be the exception. And here’s Thompson on her dislike of the thespian life in Hollywood: 

“All they do is talk about things. They have so much money that their life and preoccupation becomes getting the best of everything. They literally just sit there talking about the newest technology and the newest artwork, because it becomes their life goal to always have the best. The conversations are exhausting. You start to think, ‘Well, what thing do I own that I should start talking about? My radiator?'”

Read the full Vanity Fair interview here.

Watch The Love Punch (out May 23 in the US) trailer:

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