The Lady Smoker: An impressive and exciting night

A brilliant showcase of varied, unusual humour

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Last night was the first annual Lady Smoker at the Pembroke New Cellars. It marked the 30 year anniversary since women were first admitted to study at the College. 

The comedy scene in Cambridge is not as saturated by men as it is elsewhere.  But the inequality still exists. At the first Footlights smoker of term last week, over two thirds of the acts were male. The Footlights itself has just one – albeit brilliant and talented – woman in it.

The Lady Smoker had a buzzing atmosphere, with standing room only. There was a queue running right down the stairs to the Cellars, and dozens of people were turned away at the door.


The quality of the humour offered blissful relief from that very particular, farcical, often rather stale Cambridge male brand of comedy. Eleanor Colville opened the show with a witty send up of the tired tropes employed by the male comedian. It was a sharp, biting, incredibly relevant piece and a brilliant start to the evening.

Also memorable was Yasmin Freeman’s nun monlogue, telling the tale of Sister Mary Ignatius, a sister doing it for herself by hustling for Jesus. Freeman’s comic timing was spot on and her puns were suitably divine.

Imogen Sebba delivered an uproariously funny performance. She had a great gift for storytelling and the breakneck pace of her consistently funny punchlines made her one of the best performers of the night. Her absurd take on Tinder brought about riotous laughter.

The evening was also punctuated with a variety of sketches, most of which were of good quality, though some fell flat. Among the strongest sketches was the internal monologue sketch performed by Sasha Brooks and Eleanor Colville, which got huge laughs from the audience. It was a realistic and clever depiction of British people suppressing their true feelings for the sake of politeness.

A special mention has to go to Rosanna Suppa, whose incredible physicality in ‘Attempted Delivery’ had everyone in stitches without her even saying a word.

The end of this review needs to be devoted to what was by far and away the strongest act of the night: a stand-up set by Isa Bonachera. Isa hadn’t even prepared properly – she read her material off a crumpled exercise book. “I didn’t learn this, sorry,” she said as she took to the stage, and even that was enough to set people off. There was something about her droll tone married with her thick Spanish accent that just put the audience at ease and instantly sent them into hysterics. Her set was a list of things she hated: the audience screamed with laughter all the way through.

There is something incredibly exciting about seeing a smoker in which that very elusive thing – sparkling, blazing talent reveals itself in all its glory before your eyes. While there were glimpses and insights of true talent throughout the smoker, with Isa it was fully-fledged and unmistakable.The room became warm with it, and everyone looked at each other, bright eyed, as the uproarious reaction to this Isa’s particular brand of genius reverberated round the packed-out room.

Watch these women – but above all, watch this woman.