I’m Bryony Bisset, I’m a comedian. This isn’t a piece about sexual assault; it’s about the best gig I’ve done so far. The thing I’ve learnt about rape recently is that it doesn’t define you.
This piece is a little bit about sexual assault. I won’t go into details because this isn’t That’s Life, you can probably guess the basics. Big night out, refused to get a taxi, woke up to someone I didn’t know fucking me and hurting me.
I spent a few days in a blur, not addressing it, blaming myself. A huge bruise and cut snaked its way across my breast, reminding me every time I got undressed. Bryony, you were raped. Bryony: go to the police.
So six days later I did.
I started stand-up comedy after spending a few years in art school pretending to be a performance artist. I submitted a video to Femmeuary last year, and it was tagged under “comedy”.
“Okay,” I thought, “I’m a comedian”.
After enrolling on a two day workshop with the Funny Women organisation, a company that promotes women in comedy, I found my feet and started begging for gigs. In my brief time on the circuit I’ve supported Tim Key and Greg Davies, been named ‘One to Watch’ by the Funny Women Awards and been shortlisted from 268 entrants for the Hastings Fringe Newcomer Competition. I’m funnier than at least 258 people in the Brighton and Hastings area, then.
The best gig I’ve done so far came straight after reporting my assault. I spent nearly thirteen hours going over details, handing over clothes, having photos taken of my injuries.
I’m lying on my back as the staff member of the rape crisis centre inserts a speculum.
“Dilated to meet you,” I croak.
I’m always on.
I get driven home by the police; they ask about my comedy, I’ve got a big gig that evening at the Komedia. It’s an all-female line up. It’s with Funny Women- the organisation that essentially got me started. I should cancel, I’ve not slept and I can’t stop crying.
I write out my set, something I do before every gig. I then summarise it into cues. I then write it on my hand. I’ve warned a friend “I’m going to do it, but I’ll probably be shit.” She assures me I won’t be, I can do it.
I’m first on. It’s a sold out show. I should’ve cancelled. I’m not ready. There are 150 people staring at me, a hen do bang in the middle.
As I stand on stage, I relax. I speak. They laugh, they applaud my jokes. I am the centre of attention, unapologetic. By not backing out of this gig I suddenly feel like I’m giving my attacker and the universe a giant middle finger. I come off after my time is up.
I sit at the back, the adrenaline wears off and I feel an internal sigh. The compere thanks the audience for supporting women in comedy. As I wait at the bar a member of the hen do comes up and thanks me.
I did it, and I did a good job. These people don’t know that I spent the day being driven around by police and having my body examined by experts. They only see me, a woman in comedy, who did a great set.
They don’t see me as a rape victim.
Because the thing I learnt about rape that evening is that it doesn’t define you.
By Bryony Bisset
Bryony Bisset is an artist and stand up comedian based in Brighton, who performs under the name Bryony No. She runs a gender balanced, monthly evening of comedy at the Hope & Ruin called Jape Culture and is fully aware of the name’s irony.