Kate Smurthwaite

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Kate Smurthwaite
Kate Smurthwaite, 2010.jpg
Born (1975-12-09) 9 December 1975 (age 42)
London, England
MediumStand-up, television, radio
Years active2004–present
GenresSatire, political satire, news satire, observational comedy

Kate Smurthwaite (born 9 December 1975) is a British stand-up comedian[1] and political activist.[2] She regularly[3] appears on British television and radio as a pundit, offering opinion and comment on subjects ranging from politics to religion.

She performs stand-up around the UK and overseas including an annual comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe and is a patron of Humanists UK, formerly known as the British Humanist Association, and vice chair of Abortion Rights UK.[4]

Early life[edit]

Smurthwaite was born on 9 December 1975 in London, and grew up in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She studied mathematics at Lincoln College, Oxford, from 1994 to 1997. After leaving university, she worked in London and Japan as an investment banker, specifically within convertible bond research for UBS Warburg.[5]


Smurthwaite on "breaking the rules" and the purpose of comedy.

Smurthwaite started performing comedy in early 2004.[6] In 2008, she was a finalist in the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition.[7]

Smurthwaite has toured internationally, appearing in Stockholm, Sweden,[8] and Tampere, Finland,[citation needed] and has appeared several times at the Malmö Comedy Festival in Sweden.[9]

In 2011, Smurthwaite toured as support for Shazia Mirza[10] and also returned to the town she grew up in and opened the Bury St Edmunds Fringe festival.[11] She performs at many charitable benefit shows such as the No More Page Three show at the Harold Pinter Theatre,[12] and appears at regular benefits for Sex Appeal at the Bloomsbury Theatre[13][14] and for Eaves Housing at Soho Theatre and Bloomsbury Theatre.[15][16] She also regularly performs at the Humanists UK annual convention.[17][18]

Smurthwaite also teaches stand-up comedy through the City Academy in London.[19]

Television and radio appearances[edit]

Bread and Roses interview with Namazie on religion and free speech.

Smurthwaite was a morning show presenter on Radio Jackie in 2006,[20] and co-presented a show on Leith FM during the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe.[21] She appears regularly with Jason Mohammad on BBC Radio Wales's lunchtime phone-in show and as part of BBC London's Lady Lounge with Kath Melandri. In May 2012, Smurthwaite recorded a 15-minute programme for the BBC Radio 4 series Four Thought about sexism in comedy.[22]

Smurthwaite has also appeared on BBC Breakfast (including the first edition of the show broadcast from Salford).[23]

On 25 October 2013, Smurthwaite took part in the 100 Women event hosted by the BBC. The day featured debate and discussion on radio, television and online, in which the participants were asked to give their opinion on the position of women in the 21st century.[24]

Smurthwaite was a credited writer on the second series of The Revolution Will Be Televised, which was first broadcast on BBC Three on 10 November 2013.[25]

Smurthwaite appeared as a panellist on Question Time on 30 January 2014,[26] which was broadcast from St. Andrew's Hall in Norwich. The other panellists on the show were Ken Clarke, Emily Thornberry, Lord Oakeshott, and Mark Littlewood.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows[edit]

Since 2005, Smurthwaite has performed comedy shows annually at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

  • 2005 hosted Amused Moose Hot Starlets[citation needed]
  • 2006 solo show Adrenaline at Roman Eagle Lodge[citation needed]
  • 2007 musical show Sing-Along-A-The-Joy-Of-Sex at Mercat Bar, group show Comedy Cocktail with Lenny Peters and David Mulholland[citation needed]
  • 2008 solo show Apes Like Me at C-Soco Urban Garden, host of political panel show Comedy Manifesto at Beehive Inn[citation needed]
  • 2009 solo show The News at Kate at Voodoo Rooms, host of Comedy Manifesto political panel show at Beehive Inn, host of Midnight Hour variety bill show at Canons' Gait
  • 2010 solo show The News at Kate 2010 at Voodoo Rooms, host of Comedy Manifesto political panel show at Beehive Inn, host of Midnight Hour variety bill show at Canons' Gait
  • 2011 solo show The News at Kate 2011 at Ciao Roma, host of Comedy Manifesto political panel show at Voodoo Rooms, host of Midnight Hour variety bill show at Canons' Gait
  • 2012 solo show The News at Kate 2012 at Ciao Roma, host of Comedy Manifesto political panel show at Ciao Roma, host of Midnight Hour variety bill show at Canons' Gait[27]
  • 2013 solo show The News At Kate 2013: My Professional Opinion at Ciao Roma, host of The News At Kate 2013: World Inaction a political comedy chat show at Canon's Gait. Guests included Richard Wiseman, Rebecca Mordan, Peter Buckley Hill, and Danny Vermont
  • 2014 solo show The News At Kate 2014: Leftie Cock Womble at Viva Mexico, solo show The Evolution Will Be Televised at Ciao Roma, host of Late With Kate late night variable bill show at Canon's Gait.
  • 2015 solo show The Wrong Sort of Feminist at the Edinburgh Fringe 2015[28] and the Liverpool Comedy Festival.[29]

In 2013, Smurthwaite was awarded a ThreeWeeks Editors' Award for her News At Kate shows, citing them as a "Fringe Institution".[30] In 2014, her science show The Evolution Will be Televised was nominated for a Creative Carbon Scotland Fringe Sustainable Practice Award.[31] Other Edinburgh Fringe shows Smurthwaite has appeared in include Spank!,[32] which she has hosted as well as being a guest performer, Political Animal, Nicholas Parsons' Happy Hour, and SetList.[33]

Goldsmiths gig cancellation[edit]

Smurthwaite had been invited to perform her Leftie Cock Womble show, largely about freedom of speech, on Monday evening 2 February 2015 at Goldsmith's College, co-organised by the college's Comedy Society and Feminist Society, with both societies' members being free to attend.[34] In the run-up to the gig, controversy arose within the Feminist Society over Smurthwaite's views on prostitution – she favours the Nordic model of decriminalising those selling sex and criminalising those purchasing sex.[34][35] A vote was held at the Feminist Society, in which a 70% majority[36][37] decided to allow the show to go ahead, but some of the losing minority threatened to picket the show.[34][35][36] On Sunday afternoon 1 February, Smurthwaite contacted a representative of the Comedy Society to inform them about rumours of a protest which she picked up on Twitter.[34][38] The representative then informed her about the Feminist Society's vote,[37] confirming the possibility of a protest on grounds of Islamophobia,[38] and that only eight online tickets had been sold so far (despite the fact that the event was not profit-driven and expected about 50 people to attend[34][37]), offering Smurthwaite to reschedule the event. Smurthwaite declined, and stressed she wanted the show to go on.[38] After contacting the Comedy Society's president and security, the representative then informed her that 'because of the risk of a picket line we can't go ahead because we can't ensure the safety of students',[38] adding that if Smurthwaite were to express her views on prostitution, she would likely breach Goldsmiths Students' Union's safe space policy.[35][38] Next, the president of the Comedy Society issued a statement saying: "Despite many complaints from students about the content of Kate's act in the past, we were planning to go ahead with the gig until Kate told me 24 hours before that there was likely to be a picket with lots of students and non-students outside the venue. I couldn't verify this. Up to this point, we had only sold eight tickets, so I decided to pull the plug."[34][35][36][37] Smurthwaite found it odd that the low sale of paid tickets was cited as a reason, because the gig was never meant to be profit-driven and expected enough non-paying attendees;[37] the main objection had been her views on prostitution and possible protest against it.[35] Nevertheless, some claimed the event was primarily cancelled for economic reasons.[2]

Activism and journalism[edit]

Faced with criticism of the term "feminist", Smurthwaite presented an alternative (QED 2015).
Smurthwaite on art as resistance and free speech, July 2017.

Smurthwaite is the vice-chair and media spokesperson for British NGO Abortion Rights UK,[39] and a member of London Feminist Network and the National Secular Society. She is also on the board of the Edinburgh Fringe Society.[40] She is also patron of Humanists UK, formerly known as the British Humanist Association.

Smurthwaite at Reclaim the Night in 2011

In October 2009, Smurthwaite took a place on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth as part of Antony Gormley's One & Other project, impersonating with permission the Irish pro-choice campaigner Goretti Horgan who was unable to attend. She used the platform to highlight the disparity between abortion access in England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland.[41][42]

In July 2010, Smurthwaite protested at the lavish funeral of writer Sebastian Horsley with a sign reading "Where are the horse-drawn carriages for the VICTIMS of prostitution?",[43] attracting both praise and criticism.[44] Smurthwaite has spoken at numerous rallies including the Rally for Free Expression,[45] the rally against Tory MP Nadine Dorries abstinence only sex education bill[46] and the abortion rights rally in London following the death of Savita Halappanavar.[47]

Smurthwaite performed at the five-year anniversary party for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain,[48] and has hosted and spoken at a number of conferences including Feminism In London in 2008, 2009 and 2010[49][50][51] and Intersect in Bristol in 2012.[52] Recently she has given talks about sex and about the intersect between atheism and feminism for student groups and branches of Sceptics in the Pub.[53][54] In June 2014 she was a guest speaker at the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Humanists.

In 2014, Smurthwaite was interviewed by the No More Page 3 campaign describing herself as a "passionate atheist", and not prudish in any way. She went on to talk about her battle with anorexia in her teens, "a part of me, almost consciously, made that decision that said, "I don't want to look like an adult woman because of the way that adult women are treated, as sex objects, I'm just going to starve myself, and if I don't ever grow boobs then nobody will ever be able to treat me like that and if I just stay looking like a young girl, by being stick thin, I'll be protected from that.", and I remember thinking that very consciously... A few years later I was down to under seven stone, and I'm quite tall and I was very ill, I didn't have periods for about 18 months, yeah I was very, very sick."[55]

Smurthwaite has written for The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, The Independent, Stylist, The Scotsman, The Huffington Post, New Internationalist, The F-Word, Liberal Conspiracy, Progressive Women, Big Smoke and London Is Funny. She also has a regular column in the National Union of Teachers's official magazine, The Teacher, as well as making regular posts to her own blog, Cruella blog.[56] Her writing for The Independent has included articles about her grassroots work teaching English to female asylum seekers with the group Women Asylum Seekers Together, supported by Women for Refugee Women.[57][58]


  • Hackney Empire New Act of the Year finalist 2009
  • Platform 51 award April 2011[59]
  • ThreeWeeks Editors' Award 2013


  1. ^ Simon Kelner (18 December 2015). "A cure for trolling is surely staring us in the face". The Independent. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Rupert Myers (3 February 2015). "Kate Smurthwaite: the comedian who confused no interest with no platform". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  3. ^ Liz Nice (14 November 2014). "Bury comedian Kate Smurthwaite comes home to the Apex". Ipswich Star. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Kate Smurthwaite". Humanists UK. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  5. ^ Nibayashi, Maki. "Life In Japan". Metropolis Magazine. Japan Partnership Inc. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  6. ^ Steve Bennett (5 August 2013). "Kate Smurthwaite: The News at Kate 2013 My Professional Opinion". Chortle. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  7. ^ Christian Steel (February 2008). "Hackney Empire New Act Final 2008". Chortle. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Edge Comedy". Allt Om Stockholm. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  9. ^ Kate Smurthwaite (27 March 2014). "Let's celebrate a rare victory for safe sex among teenagers". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  10. ^ The British Comedy Guide, The News at Kate 2011
  11. ^ East Anglian Daily Times Archived 28 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Festival of arts kicks off with comedy acts
  12. ^ Not All Who Wonder Are Lost Archived 29 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Stand Up To Sexism and No More Page 3: How one night of comedy proved sexism is still no laughing matter
  13. ^ Look To The Stars, Al Murray Has Sex Appeal For Charity
  14. ^ Ian Dickerson. "Sex Appeal Five". Sex Appeal Five.
  15. ^ Eaves Charity, Eaves and comedian James Mullinger to host comedy night
  16. ^ Eaves Charity, Comedy night raises over £3,500 for Eaves
  17. ^ "Humanists UK convention 2017". Humanists UK. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  18. ^ "BHA Annual conference 2015 Bristol". Humanists UK. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  19. ^ City Academy, Profile
  20. ^ "Radio Jackie Photos :: General Photos :: 1087".
  21. ^ Chortle , Laugh Tracks 2011: The playlist
  22. ^ BBC, Radio 4, Four Thought
  23. ^ The Daily Mail, Well that's one way to end the London bias on BBC Breakfast! Now the show is dominated by the North-West
  24. ^ BBC News, 100 Women: Who is taking part?
  25. ^ BBC, The Revolution Will Be Televised: Episode 1 broadcast dates
  26. ^ BBC, Question Time episodes
  27. ^ Chortle Profile
  28. ^ "Kate Smurthwaite: The Wrong Sort of Feminist". Chortle. 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  29. ^ Catherine Jones (21 August 2015). "45 Liverpool Comedy Festival shows for a fiver". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  30. ^ ThreeWeeks,ThreeWeeks Editors' Awards Presented
  31. ^ EdFringe, 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Award Winners
  32. ^ YouTube, Kate Smurthwaite takes on some drunk hecklers at Spank
  33. ^ Cruella. "The News At Kate".
  34. ^ a b c d e f Barbara Speed (2 February 2015). "Why did Goldsmiths comedy society cancel Kate Smurthwaite's gig?". New Statesman. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  35. ^ a b c d e Karen McVeigh (2 February 2015). "Goldsmiths cancels free speech show by comedian Kate Smurthwaite". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  36. ^ a b c "'The wrong sort of feminist'Comedian's show cancelled over student protests". Chortle. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  37. ^ a b c d e Amelia Butterly (2 February 2015). "'Feminist' comedian claims uni gig pulled over 'feminist threat'". BBC Newsbeat. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  38. ^ a b c d e Kate Smurthwaite (2 February 2015). "Goldsmiths and me. The full story. The proof". Cruella-blog. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  39. ^ The Huffington Post, Profile
  40. ^ The Edinburgh Fringe Society, Board of Directors
  41. ^ BBC Living Forgery
  42. ^ The F-Word, Kate on Fourth Plinth in abortion access protest
  43. ^ Too Much To Say For Myself, 1 misogynist down, but so many more to go….
  44. ^ Mumsnet Archived 22 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Kate Smurthwaite of Cruella Blog pickets Sebastian Horsley's funeral
  45. ^ YouTube, Comedian Kate Smurthwaite on Free Expression
  46. ^ YouTube, Kate Smurthwaite at the Stop Dorries Sex Education Bill Rally 20/01/2012
  47. ^ Irish Times, Husband highlighted 'barbaric laws'
  48. ^ YouTube, taking a mickey out of god - Kate Smurthwaite - CEMB's 5th anniversary - June 2012
  49. ^ Feminism in London Archived 17 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine., ...speakers at Feminism in London 2008
  50. ^ Feminism in London Archived 17 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine., ...speakers and workshop facilitators at Feminism in London 2009.
  51. ^ Feminism in London Archived 16 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine., ...speakers and workshop facilitators at Feminism in London 2010.
  52. ^ "Kate Smurthwaite".
  53. ^ Tunbridge Wells SitP, Why Good Sex Matters and How We Can All Have It
  54. ^ Wherevent, Cambridge University Atheist and Agnostic Society (CUAAS), Kate Smurthwaite: Why atheism needs feminism and feminism needs atheism
  55. ^ Tina Edwards (host) and Kate Smurthwaite (guest) (12 May 2014). No More Page 3 interview Kate Smurthwaite (Video). Tina Edwards (for No More Page 3) via YouTube. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  56. ^ "Cruella-blog".
  57. ^ Progressive Women, Women for Refugee Women
  58. ^ The Independent Archived 29 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Blogs, Asylum seekers: When the questions tell us so much more than the answers
  59. ^ Platform 51 Archived 11 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Woman of the week

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