Esther Manito: 'I never knew that my dad would be secretly jealous'
- Craig Angus
- 25 July 2019
This article is from 2019
With Crusades, Fringe debutant Esther Manito is on a mission to give a voice to outsiders everywhere. Here she recalls embarrassing body hair at school and reveals how she likes to wind down after a gig
Three years ago Esther Manito was on maternity leave from her teaching career. Taking everyone she knew (and indeed herself) by surprise, she started dabbling with stand-up comedy. Since then she's been a BBC New Comedy Award nominee, a published author in the acclaimed collection Don't Panic, I'm Islamic, and made history as the first female comedian to perform at the Dubai Opera House. 'It's been a whirlwind,' she says.
The Lebanese-British performer has called her debut Edinburgh show Crusades, offering her own take on contemporary identity politics, taking down anonymous internet trolls, and discussing her unique outsider experience and the expectations which she, and millions worldwide, are burdened by every day. 'It's a show for anyone who has been judged by a mum at the school gate, or who's struggled juggling their parents' culture with the culture of their birthplace.'
Manito admits to having been very self-conscious as a child. 'The smooth and super-skinny Kate Moss was the poster girl of English-rose looks. I remember obsessing about the fact I just had this out-of-control body-hair that none of my fully English friends had. We had to do PE in those knickers, and my hair just bushed out everywhere.'
Those expectations of the norm weren't confined to hair battles, with societal and familial pressure to find a career in maths, law or science. 'I understand that this is the way it is in the Middle East,' she offers, 'but here there are so many ways to get into different careers. It wasn't until I became a mum myself and a grown woman that I was able to say "I'm doing stand-up and there's nothing anyone can say". I never knew that my dad would be secretly jealous, as he himself had wished he'd been more creative and not bent to pressures of family expectations.'
Crusades has been 18 months in the works, and Manito is now ready for everything that Edinburgh has to offer. All she has to do now is download some light entertainment to get her through the month. 'If I have a good gig, I find that a crime podcast is a great way to bring me down off the high. And if I have had a bad gig, then a crime podcast reminds me that life could be A LOT worse.'
Esther Manito: Crusade, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3–25 Aug (not 12), 4pm, £11–£12 (£9–£10). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £6.