‘Mrs Personality’ Claudine Ullman loves London – and chopped liver

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‘Mrs Personality’ Claudine Ullman loves London – and chopped liver

The South African comedian tells us all about her forthcoming show

Best remember the name Claudine Ullman because she’s coming in H-O-T with a cult following of fans she affectionately calls ‘angeldoves’. Having emigrated from South Africa last November, in October the Joburg native is bringing audiences her one-woman comedy show Artificially Infeminated, covering topics such as her childhood infatuation with becoming famous and the push-pull of going to the gym versus moreish ‘tennis biscuits’.

Claudine lives in Edgware with husband Danny who works in advertising and baby Shiloh who is two. “I’ve got my sister in the next road, Danny’s sister and brother too and I couldn’t be happier. But – if you asked me six months ago: “How’s London?” I would have said I was suffering from immigration depression. Now, I see how close Shiloh is to my nieces and nephews. I feel blessed. Back in South Africa there’s such a strong Jewish community and in coming to the UK, it’s great to know you have a place you fit into. I’m not hugely religious but I’m traditional. Do I love chopped liver? Abso-bloody-lutely. And chrayne. So, if that makes me Jewish, I’m in.”

Clowning around is all part of the show

So how does a Jewish girl make it big in comedy? “I went to King David (a Jewish state school in South Africa) and I was always a born performer, getting kicked out of classes for talking too much, just like my mom! I knew I was hilarious, I just needed to find something I was good at and because I was obsessed with art and drama and English, I applied for a public speaking event. At first I completely froze, but I took a deep breath and began to improvise. And I loved it on stage! I got my honours in Physical Theatre and Clowning at the University of Witz [Witwatersrand] and while all my friends went off travelling, I came to London to work as a Teaching Assistant, saving every last cent to go to clown school.”

The fascination with comedy and clowning was cemented in her childhood, watching films and shows on TV with her Dad. “I loved Carol Burnett and we would sit and laugh watching her shows and all the Carry On films together. When I started working the circuit in South Africa, my style was very niche and people didn’t get me, so I knew London would give me more opportunities to play the clown. The three comedy clubs in Joburg that closed during Covid? Still closed. In London, I can go to a different comedy club every night of the week.”

With a post-grad diploma in Film, Claudine is also a professional improviser and founder of Jittery Citizens, who facilitate team building and training. “Lots of the exercises I do with top global executives are the same ones I used to do with my five-year-olds. Kids have zero inhibitions whereas the executives have a fear of failing. In my comedy, I talk about mastering failure and when is Charlie Chaplin the funniest? When he fails. So, I try to look at failure as an opportunity. If people are laughing at me, I’m winning, because making people laugh is one of the hardest things to do.”

Not content with all of this attention and still striving for more, Claudine entered Mrs South Africa 2022, making it as a finalist, ‘Mrs Personality’. “That journey was the biggest, most insane improv I’ve ever pulled. A year and a half before, I was hijacked at gun point and really felt disheartened by my country. Gender-based violence is rife and there are so many issues facing women in South Africa, and as a female comedian, I was sexually harassed – I didn’t feel safe going alone at night to the comedy clubs. I’m so lucky to have trailblazers like Celeste Ntuli and Nina Hastie in this industry – we have each other’s backs. The pageant allowed me to fall in love again with myself and my country. It was like a crash course in female empowerment and it felt gorgeous to have an impact on the competition. When we raise each other up we truly become unstoppable! I’m trying to teach my son how to be a mensch and grow up respecting women while respecting himself.’

Wearing so many professional hats, the question is which fits Claudine best and what’s the goal? “I’m very esoteric and I’m having the biggest jol [jawl – Afrikaans for party] and saying yes! to everything. My dream would be if Lorne Michaels [creator/producer of Saturday Night Live] called to say he wants me for SNL. Just put me on a set and I’m at my happiest.”

You mention a penchant for South African ‘tennis biscuits’. Have you found the UK equivalent for these crisp coconutty biscuits and do I need to try them? “I will tell you something, there are a lot of South African shops here and I’ve had my fill of tennis biscuits. So, turn to one of your South African friends and say, ’Why have you been such a terrible friend to me? Where is my peppermint crisp dessert?’ There’s whipped cream. And caramel. And tennis biscuits! Heaven. Heaven. Heaven. I’ll send you the recipe just now.”

And she did. It sounds heavenly, angeldoves.

Claudine Ullman will be appearing on stage in London in October. For more information and ticket sales visit claudineullman.com


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