Money Princess: A Q&A with Award-Winning Comedian Mary O’Connell

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In anticipation of her highly anticipated run at Soho Theatre with her acclaimed show ‘Money Princess,’ we had the pleasure of sitting down with award-winning comedian Mary O’Connell. Known for her sharp wit, candid humor, and insightful commentary, Mary invites us into her world to explore the inspirations behind her comedy, her thoughts on the current state of the industry, and what audiences can expect from her latest performance. Get ready to delve into the mind of Mary O’Connell as she shares her unique perspective on comedy, culture, and everything in between.

Congratulations on your critically acclaimed debut hour, ‘Money Princess.’ Can you share with us the inspiration behind the title and what audiences can expect from the show during your upcoming run at Soho Theatre?

I came up with the title because I wanted to have a shameless description of how I feel about money. I wanted it to feel silly, ridiculous, tongue-and-cheek and glamorous all at the same time, because that’s how I feel when I’m pensively picking out the meal deal items that get me the most bang for my buck. (Never get water, gotta be a smoothie at least).

Your show sold out its entire run at the Fringe. How did this success impact you, and did it shape any changes or additions you’ve made for the Soho Theatre performances?

It was such an amazing experience to be able to perform my show every day at the Edinburgh fringe. The show got so much better as a result of that because every audience is different so there were always ways to amp up the performance or squeeze the physicality of a bit even further. It felt great to just spend a month doing comedy. I’ve always had a day job as well as performing comedy, so for one month, just being a performer felt like I was dedicating myself to the craft more than I’d ever done before, and that I’d ever had time to do before. Having a really good run made it feel like it was the right decision for me to back myself. It’s a milestone I’m really proud of. I’ve actually now since quit my pesky day job and am focusing on writing and performing comedy full-time.

Winning the 2023 OF TV Comedy Creative Fund is a remarkable achievement. Can you take us through your experience in the comedy challenge show, and how did it feel to be selected as the winner by judges Jamali Maddix, Mae Martin, and London Hughes?

The OF TV Comedy find was by far the most bizarre week of my life. I found it really tough because I was doing something that I love under the microscope of a reality TV show. I never thought i would ever do reality TV and when I applied for the competition it never actually stated anywhere that it would be a reality TV show, so I was on edge from the off. I explain all about it in the show so do come along to the Soho theatre run. Winning was the most ecstatic feeling in the world. By the end of the competition, it wasn’t really about winning the money, that feeling of being chosen by those comedians that I really admire and respect was priceless.

In ‘Money Princess,’ you explore your conflicted relationship with capitalism and your love for shopping. How do you navigate the balance between criticising capitalism and indulging in consumerism, and how has winning a significant comedy prize affected your perspective on money?

Can you believe I’d already decided on the title Money Princess for my show before I won a bunch of money? I think it was just meant to be, like a cruel joke…on you, because you don’t want to root for me anymore because I’ve just won a bunch of money and I’m seemingly not an underdog or as relatable anymore. I get it, you’re British and you can’t be happy for me. I forgive you, I’d be the same. I’m also British.

And it’s a cruel joke on me because my whole schtick was complaining about money and Capitalism and then I won a bunch of money but I still want to complain about money and Capitalism.

If anything, winning the comedy prize money made my relationship with money even more complicated because I got this windfall in what felt like an anomaly. I haven’t really splurged on anything since winning the money because I won the money in such a meaningful way, it feels like anything I spend the money on has to be really meaningful as well.

The thing about capitalism is that you can’t really escape it, especially if you have a penchant for trainers and scented candles like I do. Me trying to be successful in capitalism is like fighting a losing battle, because a) it’s really hard to win and b) if you win then you’re perpetuating a flawed system. But winning looks so damn appealing I can’t help wanting to win! I think the way that I navigate is by talking about my money anxiety. I talk about it in the show and I talk about it with my friends and family, I know I’m not alone in feeling these things and so many other people can relate to feeling trapped in this system that makes you fight to stay in it.

You’ve mentioned your love for clowning and alternative comedy. How do these influences manifest in your debut hour, and what role do they play in shaping your comedic style?

I had the absolute pleasure of being directed by the wonderful Elf Lyons who is a brilliant clown. She really pushed me to be silly – something I find easier to do offstage than on stage. Your debut hour is essentially people’s introduction to who you are and I wanted to show a side to myself that I hadn’t previously shown in my material. One of the things I love about clowning is that you have to be so present in the room. You have to react to the audience and go through something together. One of the things I struggle with in my life, as a money anxiety riddled freelancer, is being present, so I’ve always admired that from clowns. They embrace failure as well as success.

Your podcast, ‘Personality Quiz,’ and your work on various TV projects showcase your versatility. How do you balance different creative outlets, and do you find that your experiences in one medium influence your approach in another?

What’s great about being a comedian is that you’re always looking at stuff from your point of view. Being your weird self is the brand so that will always come through in my writing and podcast records. I’ve found that challenging myself in some areas shows up when I’m doing something else. If I find myself ranting about God knows what on my podcast I can probably take that same energy on stage. To be honest I think I’m pretty good at being consistently frustrated so that comes through in all my creative outlets.  The balance is one of the harder elements. I do a lot of work on trains when I’m travelling to and from gigs and I’ll admit it’s harder to keep up with my social life outside of performing.

For aspiring comedians and writers, especially those from diverse backgrounds, what advice would you give based on your journey in the industry so far?

There’s something so special about being yourself. No one person on this earth has your unique experience so use that. Use the things that make you different. Don’t worry about not doing things the same way as everyone else. That being said, it is harder when you come from a diverse background because the industry itself isn’t always ready for you, but you can forge your own path and make them have to be ready for you.

Lastly, what do you hope audiences will take away from ‘Money Princess,’ and what can we expect from Mary O’Connell in the future?

I want audiences to feel less alone in their worries about money. We’re in a cost of living crisis, I’ve lived under a Tory government for my whole adult life, stuff is scary out here! I want people to be more comfortable talking about money, it’s still so taboo to talk about but the more we share the more we learn. I’ve always appreciated friends and colleagues being candid about money when I’ve been negotiating a salary or scoping out a gig. But most importantly I want people to know that life can still be fun and you should still prioritise joy in a world where making money seems like the most important thing.

You can still expect me to be obsessed with money and talking about money, I don’t think that will ever change. I’m really looking forward to relaunching my podcast and continuing my writing projects, oh and also I think I’m going to change my hair.

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