Ania Magliano on The Weekly Shop and live comedy
Lockdown star Ania Magliano on her new podcast, work anxiety as a form of material, and her hopes for the future of live comedy
Ania Magliano has had a productive lockdown. “I was not one of those people who was able to take a break,” she says. “You know that meme that was going around where it was like, ‘King Lear was written during the Plague’? I was like, ‘I need to write King Lear!’, which I haven’t done, but I have done a podcast.”
The Weekly Shop, which she co-hosts with fellow comic Harry Monaghan, is an ode to the humble supermarket. Lazily put, it’s the everyman’s answer to a certain ubiquitous restaurant-themed podcast.
“It’s a podcast for the people,” says Magliano. “I love Off Menu [Ed Gamble and James Acaster's restaurant podcast] but I always want to eat the food they’re talking about. With this, if you want to [do that], it’ll be, like, an Oreo.”
In short, guests – starting with Mock the Week’s Maisie Adam – divulge their staple purchases, often reflecting on how the pandemic has changed their habits.
The joy of the show is as much in the guests’ admissions of their idiosyncrasies as it is in hearing the good friends discover each other’s long-held habits. For example, when Monaghan mentions that he rarely tries on clothes before buying them, preferring to eyeball it. “Can I just say,” replies his co-host, “I did not know that before we agreed to do this podcast. That’s absolutely mental.”
Really, it’s in these moments – when she can unpack a small observation for maximum laughs – that Magliano is most on-brand. She’s recently stacked up millions of views on TikTok with sketches like 'What your email signature says about you'. It’s her most viewed video, but also the most reflective of her own work anxiety.
“A lot of material can come out of those [things] that seem very trivial but take up so much of your headspace,” says Magliano. “I have a full-time job alongside doing comedy, and I find that with every email I have to go back and delete about three exclamation marks.”
I ask Magliano how she feels about the future of live standup. While she doesn’t mind her current setup – “it’s nice to have the structure of a day job, and I think it’s probably done good things for my mental health” – she does admit to having to taper her ambitions. “It would be the dream to be able to just be like, ‘comedy is secure enough that it can be a full-time thing,’ but it’s kind of like an on-and-off relationship we’ve had. I’m like, ‘I can’t go back to you yet until you promise you’ll behave'.”
Magliano’s attention is on those from marginalised groups, whose prospects are most at risk. It's been reported that for standups who are people of colour, 60% have had to seriously consider leaving comedy this past year, “and I think that’s unacceptable – it can’t happen.” She recommends Ken Cheng, Erika Ehler, Bella Hull, Kemah Bob and Sukh Ojla as fantastic acts of colour if you’re looking to diversify your lineups.
She was one of the many recent voices to champion the #SaveLiveComedy fund from which that statistic comes, an initiative set up to provide hardship grants to those in the industry, and it’s not the first time she’s taken action to help ensure comedy’s accessibility. “I was very lucky in that I went to Cambridge and was very enamoured with the comedy scene there, but it was so male-heavy at the time. A lot of the conversations that were being had were with other women who felt the same, and so we set up Stockings Comedy as an open-mic night space outside of Footlights’ established ways. You know, those real old school sensibilities.”
The Stockings Comedy collective continues to provide a space for anyone who doesn’t fit the “Mitchell and Webb” mould. Many performers are “already falling through the cracks of government funding, so if the comedy industry isn’t thinking about them then we’re just going to end up with such a boring industry,” she explains. “It’s not going to be funny, it’s not going to be good and it’s not going to be fair.”
As for Magliano’s work-in-progress show, Absolutely No Worries if Not, she’s not sure that the story she had at her first preview in February 2020 is the one she wants to tell anymore. “That show was all about my teenage years as a YouTuber,” but now she just wants to “find the stuff that’s funny and figure out the theme afterwards.”
“Maybe it’ll be about email signatures,” she adds, cynically. “That seems to go down well.”
Ania Magliano co-hosts The Weekly Shop podcast alongside Harry Monaghan, available via Apple Podcasts