Interview with deaf actor, playwright and stand-up comedian Sophie Woolley

Sophie Woolley is an actor, playwright, and a stand-up comic. She starred in Channel 4’s drama series Cast Offs, has written numerous plays for theatre and Radio 4, and recently performed in her own online series, Deaf Faker. She has also just written a short story called I Am the Walrus in a new anthology called One for the Trouble. Later this month she’s performing as one of the characters in the story as part of Abnormally Funny People’s comedy gig at Soho Theatre, all of which makes it seem the perfect time to find out more about her work. Or at least, a small part of it.

You’ve got a play in production, have just starred in the Deaf Faker online series, have written a story  in a new book, and now you’re doing stand-up too. How do you fit it all in?

I’m developing another couple of plays as well! I’m also trying to finish reading a time management book called Getting Things Done, which is like an erotic self help book for busy people or something. I don’t really understand a lot of it, and there is some hard core filing advice  – but the author says some interesting things about ‘open loops’.Basically you have to make a system for yourself so you aren’t thinking about the other task you should be doing when you are supposed to focus on the other task.

But I’m answering your question far too literally. The way I fit in this stand up thing was by writing the new material for this month’s gig after thinking of something funny in the half sleep just after I went to bed. I had to get up and write it down. Hopefully it won’t show that I wrote it whilst asleep.

What do you like writing best – fiction, drama or comedy?

I usually like whatever I’m doing the best while I am doing it – on a good day! I started writing plays and short stories when I was 7 or 8. I’d read them in school assembly (people would always die in the end as I was crap at thinking of twists in the tale) and cast friends in my plays and revues. I made magazines as well at primary school. Then I took a break from fiction, drama and journalist writing during secondary school to devote more time to fancying pop and film stars on TV.

What was your first stand-up gig like?

People laughed – it was a big relief. I thought ‘this is easier than I expected’.   I didn’t really do a proper joke joke joke set. It was a character monologue, although I situated the piece in the venue I’m in at the time. I was glad no one heckled – because I might not be able to lipread them or hear them. The gig this month is the first subtitled stand up gig I’ve done, so maybe I’ll find out actually people do heckle me and I just didn’t realise.

Tell us about the act you’ll be performing at Soho…

My act is a quick masterclass in acting. I’ve done a small amount of acting and now feel fully qualified to lecture everyone on a few secret tricks of the trade. The comedy night itself is called Abnormally Funny People which is a regular comedy night featuring disabled stand ups and a  token non disabled stand up. It’s in the swish new comedy room downstairs.

How does the act relate to the story in the book?

The stand up character is kind of based on the one in the book – but the tone is very different. It’s a deaf actress character – inspired mainly by myself. Which sounds very conceited, but come and see it – and read the story in the book and you will see that it is quite the opposite.

Sophie will be performing live at a palantyped (with live subtitles) comedy gig downstairs at Soho Theatre on Monday 20 February at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10. Booking info:

Book Slam annual Vol One: One for the Trouble is available as a limited edition signed hardback (£30) or as a cheaper eBook (£2).from Amazon kindle:

For more information about Sophie’s work, visit her website:

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