Desiree Burch: 'The show takes on sex, work, sex work, and how to keep sex from becoming work'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 9 April 2018
The LA-born, UK-based Desiree Burch is a rising star in both comedy and theatre circles, determined to keep offering audiences new and funny perspectives
Finding that sweet spot where comedy and theatre intersect isn't always easy, but Desiree Burch is a prime example of someone who has successfully blurred those genre distinctions. As winner of the 2015 Funny Women Stage Award and also a recipient of a Fringe First Award in the same year for her solo show Tar Baby, Burch has marched firmly into both realms with terrific results.
'I watched a lot of "Live from the Improv" type shows on cable when I was a kid,' Burch recalls. 'I think I identified with that kind of one-person performance right off the bat. I concentrated on solo performance while I studied theatre at Yale, so I think that's where that desire got focused.'
Burch thrived in the experimental theatre scene as a founding member of the New York Neo-Futurists, but with her move to London, she discovered a real affinity for stand-up, finding a new type of space to explore her ideas. 'In the UK, there is a real economy for comedy in a way that there isn't in the States. Doing comedy on the road and having a family life is much more doable because things are closer together. There are a lot of TV and radio jobs for comics here that don't exist in the States. So my time has gravitated more towards comedy in the few years I've been here.'
Burch has toured internationally with her solo shows, receiving great praise for her storytelling prowess and sharp analysis of both the personal and political. But in her most recent stand-up show, Unfuckable, she takes this one step further, recounting anecdotes from her past as a virgin professional dominatrix in New York with unashamed detail and intelligent commentary that centres on race, sex and capitalism. 'The show takes on sex, work, sex work, and how to keep sex from becoming work. I talk about the commodification of my black, female, plus-sized body, and how that work helped me to recognise other places in my life where those elements are at play. In many ways, it's about reclaiming the self and one's own value, by trying to discover what it's worth.'