Hannah Chutzpah is a performance poet, writer and activist. She is performing her one-woman show, Asking Nicely, at the Fringe. Poetry Correspondent Carly Brown chatted with her about asking permission, being part of the PBH Free Fringe and why she likes making people laugh.
‘It's like they're not asking for permission anymore.’
Tell us about your show.
I'm doing a poetry show about permission - about what factors can make people feel confident and entitled, or like they don't deserve and they don't belong. There's nine poems and some talky bits stringing together anecdotes and various scientific studies. I've had people laughing throughout and people crying, too. It tends to affect different people very differently.
How did you first become interested in researching and writing about permission?
I wrote one piece which grew and spiralled into something much bigger, but it all kicked off when I was trying to describe women who appeared confident from the outset and the phrase I ended up using was: ‘It's like they're not asking for permission anymore.’ The male friend I was talking to didn't understand that that was unusual, but it is and I started looking at why it is unusual for women to appear confident. (Men are very welcome at the show too!)
I really enjoyed the comedic elements in Asking Nicely and how you used humor to address issues like privilege in your poem about how some people might be ‘playing life on easy mode.’ How do you blend comedy with research and social commentary?
Partly I just like making people laugh - as a performer it’s reassuring feedback that things are going well and the audiences are warm. I've always been a writer but performing is newer to me, and I first started seeing performance poetry on mixed comedy bills, where there was a lot of poetry/comedy crossover. But also if you can make someone laugh while making a serious point it helps sweeten the pill, a bit.
Also: the research often is hilarious. There's a great book by Cordelia Fine called Delusions of Gender which addresses bad science arguments about gender differences and it had me laughing out loud so often people on the train started staring.
Why did you choose to perform as part of the PBH Free Fringe?
Partly it's practical - in real life I work for a charity and I pay London rent, so I don't have the funds to have a paid venue. But partly it's loyalty: every Fringe I've done - whether as a flyerer or a performer - has been with PBH Free Fringe. The try-before-you-buy aspect makes it financially possible to give things a go - as an audience member or as a performer - and I've definitely grown up and got better in my craft through those opportunities.
What’s been your favorite experience at the Fringe this year?
I'd struggle to pin down one, but the chats with audiences afterwards are always great. Also: doing a poetry set in Hardeep Singh Kholi's restaurant and eating great food on the house was fantastic.
Show information: http://www.broadwaybaby.com/shows/asking-nicely/706272