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Isabella Charlton: Comedian on the Rise

Updated: Jul 11

Blended families can get complicated at times. However, affairs are even messier, as talented comedian Isabella Charlton lets us know in her Off- Broadway one woman show, "So My Dad F*cked the Nanny" as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival at Thymele Arts in Hollywood. Isabella is transparent, on point, and delivers beautifully. She is an authentic storyteller. Isabella is definitely not afraid to tackle sexual topics, while being self-deprecating at the same moment. First, the story that Isabella tells is all true. Secondly, she explains to the audience her childhood and adolescence in comedic form; thirdly, when she tells her story (with tons of sordid details), you really feel like you're a part of the narrative -- deceit, lies, and all.

The show is part stand-up, part storytelling. Isabella's story starts with a dark and steamy affair with the Nanny, between her father and her brother's Nanny, a few months before she was born into the ensuing aftermath. Watching Isabella as she pries open more family secrets, struggles to be the top dog in two blended families, and learns all is not what it seems is fascinating. Ironically, everything Isabella went through made her stronger and able to see life from a more alternative perspective and realize life is about navigating through the complicated parts of it. As Isabella performs her show, you see her soften and even empathize with some of her parent's choices (as well as everyone involved). She does not play the victim once. Maybe this is why she can make light of it and is so well adjusted as a person. This twist-turning and ironic show takes us through the highs and lows of adolescence and adult love life, unveiling family secrets, power plays, and salacious surprises.

Isabella Charlton is a London born, US & Hong Kong based, stand-up comic, screenwriter, actress, and performer. After the performances at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, she will then move across the pond to perform her show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August 2024.

Isabella has had success performing all over the world and she was selected to be a part of famed Hollywood Laugh Factory’s Fresh Faces for 2018 & 2019. She has also performed in LA at The Comedy Store, The Hollywood Improv, Westside Comedy Theatre, and The Ice House (in Pasadena). Isabella currently splits her time between the US and Hong Kong where she speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. Born in London but raised in Hong Kong, she is also a New Zealand resident as well as an Indian overseas citizen because her father is mixed race Indian and UK and was born in India. Her parents are both lawyers and Isabella also has an undergraduate law degree from Oxford and a Masters of Law from London School of Economics. In addition to working as a barrister in London, she was also an on-air reporter for TVB News in Hong Kong and a bilingual actress in Chinese language movies, television, and theatre in Beijing. Gemma Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Isabella about her inspiration, her hilarious one-woman show, and much more.

Inspired by comics such as Wanda Sykes, Zach Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, and Tig Notaro, Isabella hopes to have her own television series based on her one-woman show and to continue to write films and books. She is involved in two charities set up by her mother: Asia Education Foundation Limited & Asia Environmental Foundation Limited.

She recently spoke with Gemma Magazine about her inspiration, what makes a joke funny, and the sacrifices she has made to be a stand-up comedian.

What inspired you to be a stand-up comedian?

    I was inspired to start comedy, when I lived in

Beijing and got involved performing cross talk in Chinese.  Cross talk

is an ancient form of Chinese comedy, where two people are on stage

talking, and most of the comedy is derived from talking at cross

purposes. This is very easily done as so many Chinese words sound

similar to other Chinese words. So, horse and mother might be confused

for instance. I had so much fun that I wanted to start performing comedy

in English.

   Can you describe your first performance and how you felt about it?

I think I got laughs in my first few performances, but my

nerves were all over the place. Someone came up after and told me they

could see my dress moving and realized my legs were shaking!

What are the best strategies for memorizing involved monologues?

    I love just getting on stage and saying whatever I can

remember. Normally you remember the funny parts, and the rest you can

cut anyway.

Please describe your training.

      The most significant training I got was as a barrister in

the UK. A barrister is a type of lawyer in the UK, like a trial

attorney. During my training, my friend used to throw books at me, if

I ever said the word, ‘um,' because you got points deducted in the bar

exams if you gave a speech and said ‘um’.

How does an idea (when writing) convert into a joke?

    I just see what makes me laugh, and then I try it out on

stage and see if I can get anyone else to laugh. I think a joke is

formed when you hit on the right punch line.

Which contemporary phenomena should never be the subjects of comedic performances?

   I’m not sure anything should be totally off limits when it

comes to comedy. The audience is the final arbiter. They decide if

it’s funny and being handled sensitively enough to be funny. So even

the most taboo subject can be joked about if handled right. Try a few

audiences though to get a representative crowd.

Best city to perform in?   

Berlin might be the best city to perform in. Large

international audiences and a lot of stage time.

The best night of your life in terms of comedy.

Doing comedy in LA, New York, or Austin over the pandemic,

meant you could end up on shows with or hanging out with some of the

truly great comedians. Comedians tend to treat each other as equals,

even though some are obviously comedy legends and others mere mortals.

But once you start comedy, you’re in this magical sort of club, where

ego is often left at the door.  My best nights have always been doing

a great set, and then being able to chat to a comic I admire.

How is this life and art form difficult and its drawbacks?   

The life in comedy can obviously be a bit of a grind,

especially if you’re on the road. You have to really love it to even

contemplate making all the sacrifices it’s necessary to make. I’ve

noticed a lot of comedians date chefs, I guess because they work

nights too.

Tell us about your current show.

My current show is called, ‘So My Dad F*cked the Nanny’. I had to

call it ‘So my Dad and the Nanny’ for social media so I didn’t get my name

blocked. It’s my origin story, and perhaps one of the reasons I ended

up a comedian. The show is a mixture of stand up and storytelling. And

yes, it’s all true.

Who are some comedians that you admire?

  I currently really enjoy Leo Reich, Hannah Einbinder and Megan Stalter.

Do you have some favorite stand-up specials that you currently like?

  Funny you should ask, I just watched Leo Reich and Hannah

Einbinder’s Specials and thought they were great.

What is up next for Isabella Charlton?

Next up is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. See me at the

Gilded Balloon every night at 9pm.

To keep up with Isabella Charlton, follow her on Instagram:

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