Janine Harouni: 'It's easy to demonise people as snowflakes or racists'

This article is from 2019

Janine Harouni: 'It's easy to demonise people as snowflakes or racists'

credit: James Deacon

Accomplished actor and one third of sketch troupe Muriel tells us that compromise and empathy are the way forward in these highly divisive times

In your debut show you advocate 'standing up for what you believe in even if you have to do it really nicely.' How is that working out?
It's so difficult to not shout when you're defending what you believe is right. Ruth Bader Ginsburg says a big lesson her mother taught her was that 'reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade.' I'm a New Yorker born and raised: we yell even when we're not mad, so that's definitely a lesson I keep having to re-learn myself!

I guess that softly, softly approach is a useful skill when talking to your Middle Eastern, Trump-supporting father?
We have just agreed to not talk about politics, it upsets us too much. So many people have come up to me after the show to tell me that they related to my story because their parents voted for Brexit and they found it difficult to even speak to them anymore. How crazy is it that we are living in a time where households can be that divided?

Today's politics certainly are polarising people
I think it's easy to demonise one side or the other as snowflakes or racists. But when you look at the individual representatives of those people in your life, you see they are your parents or children or friends, and you recognise that they are intelligent, hard-working, compassionate, good people. If you want real meaningful change to happen, you need time, patience, empathy and compromise. And this show is the story of that.

As this is your first solo show, how does it feel to be getting up there on your own?
It's very scary! Stand-up is just you on stage sharing your thoughts and experiences. But if you find the humour in our shared humanity, that's what really makes me excited about comedy. And that's what I hope I'm doing with this show.

Stand Up with Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated), Pleasance Courtyard, 3–25 Aug (not 13), 5.45pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £6.

Stand Up with Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated)

  • 4 stars

Soho Theatre Janine's father is a lifelong New Yorker and son of Middle-Eastern immigrants. He's also an avid Donald Trump supporter. Attempting to reconcile those things makes for one tense Sunday dinner. Catch multi award-winning newcomer Janine Harouni in her debut show about standing up for what you believe in…

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