Evelyn Mok: 'In my private life I'm very prudish but on stage I'm very, very crude'

Evelyn Mok: 'In my private life I'm very prudish but on stage I'm very, very crude'

For Evelyn Mok, performing a debut show about being a virgin into her mid-20s shifted between cathartic and traumatic. Her heavily-anticipated follow-up will be informed by #MeToo

Many comedians dream of being approached by appreciative virgins after a show. However, Evelyn Mok has found the reaction to her candid debut hour (in which she recounts not popping her own cherry until she was 25) occasionally unsettling but, ultimately, empowering and cathartic. 'Excuse the cliché, but performing Hymen Manoeuvre was like owning my story again,' explains the Chinese-Swedish stand-up. 'I wanted to tell everybody my secret so that nobody could hurt me with it again, making fun of myself first so others couldn't. It was definitely a way of taking power back and it turned out to be more therapeutic than I expected.'

On good nights at last year's Edinburgh Fringe it was a comedy show in which she showed the audience that she'd moved on. 'But on the bad, it was much more of a therapy session,' she elaborates. 'I only saw it as being honest while others saw it as revealing. And when I realised that people saw it as revealing, that's when I started to feel vulnerable about it.'

Mature virginity has become a taboo and niche fetish in our increasingly pornified culture. 'I'm Swedish but then I'm also Chinese, I have an American accent and I'm also plus size,' states Mok. 'So, I'm already set up to play the outsider card.' Experiencing a steady rise in profile since she moved to London in 2012, she enjoys playing with the tension her honesty provokes. 'Though some nights it definitely got away from me and it became more uncomfortable than I intended. In my private life I'm very prudish. But on stage, for some reason, I'm very, very crude; I find it so much fun. It's a weird outlet but then tension-release is what comedy is all about.'

With the #MeToo movement gathering momentum, her follow-up (which she's performing as a work-in-progress at the Glasgow Comedy Festival) will be more 'opinionated' she ventures, about 'being a woman today and how #MeToo has really stirred things up for me and made me re-examine some of my own experiences in a clearer light.'

Born to a father from Hong Kong and a Chinese mother who was raised in India, as a child Mok found Swedish culture 'very homogenous and very white'. Seldom seeing her own background reflected, she fantasised herself into the US sitcoms her grandparents would sit her in front of while her parents worked: 'I wrote myself into Saved By the Bell and pretended I was a sister of one of the main characters.'

Recently though, she's appeared in a number of sitcom pilots for real, including Rhys Darby's Furious Andrew for Channel 4, Andi Osho's Halloween short for Sky, and Tim Renkow's A Brief History of Tim, currently being made into a BBC Three series.

Concurrently, she's writing her own semi-autobiographical comedy, Evie, for a major broadcaster, about a people-pleasing, sexually inexperienced academic. Co-starring stand-up Bobby Mair as her adopted brother, a read-through at London's Soho Theatre attracted an impressive cast, including Nick Helm, Jamali Maddix, Harriet Kemsley, Michael Stranney and Gein's Family Giftshop's Ed Easton. 'I just want to see someone like myself up there on TV with my version of things, and me pursuing my childhood fantasy in a more mature way. Although I would still like to kiss Zack Morris: that would be great'.

Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre, Soho Theatre, London, Mon 5–Wed 7 February; work-in-progress show is at Veneer Gallery, Glasgow, Sun 25 March.

Evelyn Mok: Work in Progress

Work-in-progress from award-winning Swedish comedian.

Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre

The award-winning Swedish comedian explores first-generation guilt, intersectionality and adult virginity in this confident, smart and highly anticipated debut show.

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