Sex Education’s Gbemisola Ikumelo on writing her own comedy: “The room can be quite brutal”

The Sex Education and Famalam star says it can be quite hard pitching sketches.

Gbemisola Ikumelo

She’s been nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for her comedy performance in BBC Three’s Famalam, but despite her achievements, actress and writer Gbemisola Ikumelo says it’s not easy coming up with sketches, and she often doesn’t think anyone actually finds her “funny”.

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Speaking at the Virgin Media BAFTAs 2020 pre-ceremony, she said: “I write on the show and the room can be quite brutal! When you’re reading, I can never hear the laughs so I just think, ‘I can change that bit,’ and people are like, ‘No, no, we like it’. But I never believe anyone is finding it funny!”

Although it can be quite harsh when pitching ideas, Gbemi – who appeared on Netflix’s Sex Education as a police officer earlier this year – says this allows her to perfect her sketches.

She continued to press, including RadioTimes.com: “It can be quite brutal, but sometimes that’s a good thing because you start with hundreds of sketches and that gets filtered and some of them you’re playing with and acting out, then that gets filtered. Sometimes you shoot a whole sketch and it doesn’t make it into the actual show, so it does feel a little bit like The X Factor of sketch comedy, but I think that’s the way of getting the best sketches.”

She added: “I think there is a sense of knowing where our sweet spot is as creatives and actors and what parts we have fun and it is just listening and reacting. Sometimes something beautiful will be happening in the moment as we’re paying attention to each other.”

Sex Education Gbemisola Ikumelo
Gbemisola Ikumelo in Sex Education
Netflix

Famalam is described as a “a comedy sketch show where no area of the universe is off limits”.

Addressing this theme, Gbemi explained that it’s easy for Black comedians to be “boxed in” and essentially type-casted when it comes to comedy.

Therefore, she and the other creators on the BBC Three series wanted to do something different to show “they can do it too!”.

She added: “I think when it comes to Black comedy and Black work in general, I think there’s always a feeling like, ‘This is your place, this what you do!’ So it was really great that we’re going to be in space, we’re going to be aunties, I’m going to play a boy and it just feels like, ‘We can do this, too!’

“What I love is when I see people who both are Black, but  also people from different backgrounds and they totally get that whole auntie sketch. I don’t think anything should be off limits but sometimes you do feel kind of boxed in.”

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The Virgin Media BAFTAs will air on Friday 31st July from 7.00pm BBC One. If you’re looking for more to watch check out our TV Guide.