Luisa Omelian and her dog, Bernie. (Photo provided by DDPR.)
By Winne McCroy
Luisa Omielan, the most famous British comedian you’ve never heard of, brings her fourth solo comedy show, God Is a Woman, to the SoHo Playhouse through October, and as the limeys like to say, it’s bloody brilliant then, innit?
Ms. Omielan, the first British comedian to ever win a BAFTA Breakthrough Award for Comedy, has crafted a career on tackling a topic and running with it to its ultimate end. She first gained media attention with her debut show What Would Beyoncé Do?! and followed it with the solid hit, Am I Right Ladies?!, straight talk, woman to woman. Then she turned her attention to the legislature and landed a hit BBC show, Politics for Bitches. Friends and fans helped her crowdfund the money for her American debut.
After her Polish immigrant mother, Helena, lost her battle with cancer, Ms. Omielan fell into a deep depression. She moved back to a crumbling house in Birmingham, started a hospice-assisting foundation in her mother’s memory, and adopted an emotional support dog, Bernie, the Bernese mountain dog.
She takes this gigantic dog everywhere; to wit, it was curled up on the stage of the SoHo Playhouse, occasionally raising its head to steal the show with a quizzical look, or running out and capering adorably to the sound of audience applause. Ms. Omielan even joked that the show title came about over people wanting to “pet that big boy” despite her incessant correction that “the dog is a woman.”
Jokes aside, the dog seems to have helped; Ms. Omielan is healing via the soothing balm of comedy. Although she says she gained “three stone” (42 pounds) while dealing with the tragedy, this former string bean has hardly been crying. At a recent show, she was quick to grab her belly, take a good squeeze, and say, “You know what this means? This means I go out to dinner with friends… Guys don’t mind. As long as it’s warm, wet, and clean, they’re fine.”
Part of Ms. Omielan’s success comes in the perfect balance she strikes between spitting veritable truth on the myriad ways our patriarchal society shits on women and professing her love of sucking dick. In her latest show, for example, she takes the Catholic Church to task for mistakenly labeling Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, before quietly retracting those allegations in 1969.
Mary was very likely Jesus’s wife or partner, and part of a large band of female disciples that, like the 12 male apostles, traveled around with him. As Ms. Omielan explained, it’s all there in The Gospel of Mary—one of many stories dismissed and discounted by the Church. Ms. Omielan bemoans the numerous gospels cast aside for not fitting the sacrosanct image of Christ that the Church wanted to put forward.
Ms. Omielan pulls no punches when taking organized religions to task for their many shortcomings, pointing out that the three major world religions—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—were all started by prophets known to be peaceful men who loved the poor, the infirm, and yes, women. And all three were later corrupted by men to demand complete domination over all non-believers, and complete subservience of women.
Then she turns on a dime to launch into a heartwarming tale of a Muslim handyman she hires to wallpaper her home, who not only gets her blood pumping by putting up six shelves but drives her to Ikea for a new wardrobe, then brings it to her house and assembles it for free.
Ms. Omielan balances the heavy business of life with just the right amount of funny to keep the evening rooted in comedy. And, as in her previous shows and her stand-up sets for The Apollo and Comedy Central, Ms. Omielan delivers all of this in her rapid-fire English accent.
It’s easy enough for savvy New Yorkers to follow, though it might not land in the same manner if she ever plays a set at, say, Florida’s Old Naples Comedy Club. Which is more likely than you might think. Because, as Ms. Omielan says at the end of her 90-minute show, what the world needs now is a good woman. And in Ms. Omielan, it just may have found her.
God Is a Woman
15 Vandam Street, NYC
Through October 6
Winnie McCroy is a longtime arts & entertainment writer who lives in Brooklyn with her wife and her giant Rottweiler, Dixie Carter. For more of her reviews, visit winniemccroy.com.