When we think of the plethora of successful Irish comedians, several names come to mind: Dara O’Briain, Ed Byrne, Tommy Tiernan… In fact, when you search ‘Irish Comedi-ans’ on Google, they are the first ones that pop up. However, one who has soared up the rankings in recent years is Kildare-native Aisling O’Sullivan – better known by her stage name, Aisling Bea. Her twitter bio reads “Actor. Stand-up. Writer. People have woken up to worse.” Bea’s honest comedic style aside, everyone does need to wake up to this rising star.
Following stints in Trinity College Dublin and LAMDA, Bea was nominated for ‘Best New-comer’ at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2013 for her show C’est La Bea. The following year, she won ‘Best Female TV Comic’ at the British Comedy Awards. In the last five years, Bea has become arguably one of the most successful female comedians to come from Irish soil. In an era of growing female representation in comedy, Bea has been a trailblaz-er. Following several appearances on shows such as QI, Taskmaster, The Last Leg and A League of their Own, she became the first ever female team captain on Channel 4’s Eight out of Ten Cats in 2016.
This year, her sitcom This Way Up premiered on Channel 4. Written by and starring Bea, alongside fellow Irish comedian Sharon Horgan, her debut could hardly have been better, receiving a 91% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and five-star ratings across the board. The show, described as “a perfect tonic for our times” by The Guardian, has earned Bea her status alongside esteemed female writers such as Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Bea plays the role of Áine in the show, an English teacher who is recovering from a “tee-ny” nervous breakdown. Her creation fights the established, unrealistic expectations set for women on many TV shows in the past. In This Way Up, Bea reminds us that not every journey in life is easy and that sometimes the smallest things, like simply making it through the day, can be the most important. There is a certain strength and defiance in the raw vulnerability presented by Bea in the show, which is something that television’s generic portrayals of women in television have lacked. With its perfect mix of raw emo-tion, touching moments and a hilariously awful rendition of The Cranberries’ Zombie, This Way Up captures the zeitgeist of this inspiring yet tumultuous time in women’s history.
In recent weeks, Bea’s career took another leap forward with the release of her new Net-flix series Living with Yourself, in which she stars alongside the legendary Paul Rudd. Bea attended its premiere in Hollywood Hills in a shamrock green suit, made by upcoming sustainable clothing designer Georgia Hardinge, something which Bea has been a long-term advocate for.
From honest female representation to sustainable fashion, all done with a wry smile and endearing amusement – Aisling Bea has become the ultimate ‘woman of today’ and someone we all should strive to be a little bit more like.
Gemma Farrell – Arts & Lifestyle Writer