Scroll through What Would Beyonce Do?, one of many Tumblr sites dedicated to Beyonce, and you'll find Queen Bey being Queen Bey — on a yacht, in front of a Rolls Royce, holding her Grammys. Luisa Omielan's stand-up show is also called What Would Beyonce Do?
But that's where the similarity ends The British comic is an ocean away from the pop star's world of glamour, yet she still finds inspiration in her music and applies it to her first, big stateside gigs at Upright Citizens Brigade tonight and Oh My Ribs on Wed.-Thurs., Sept. 25-26, and Sat., Sept. 28.
Like many comics in their early 20s, Omielan struggled her way through London's stand-up and improv scene for five years with little success. In 2010, she even crossed the pond and trained at Chicago's Second City, then, last year, made her way down to L.A. for a few months.
“If I want to be the white Whoopi Goldberg, I need to go where Whoopi Goldberg is,” says Omielan over the phone from London. “I need to go and find out how to do it.”
She became a real “hot mess” when, at 28, she broke up with her boyfriend and had to move in with her mother. When a friend pointed out that she was the same age as Beyonce, she started asking questions and looking to Mrs. Carter for answers.
“Look where Beyonce is and look where I am,” Omielan laughs and recalls thinking. “Where's it all gone wrong? I couldn't understand.”
Then there was her brother's suicide attempt two years ago on Christmas Eve.
“The whole time I was devastated,” Omielan recalls. “A friend of mine took me to a comedy club and told me, 'You need to do a gig.' I went up and I talked about mental health and depression, and I got a standing ovation. To be that honest about something so painful and to get that connection from the audience felt phenomenal. I wanted to talk about things that are truthful and find the funny in them.”
So last year, Omielan began putting together What Would Beyonce Do? And just like her idol would've done, Omielan turned her personal pain into comedy gold.
Omielan performed the show for a 30-night run at London's Soho Theater and twice at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“I did it in a little room above a pub where the toilets were,” Omielan says.
She soon landed an agent, promoter and a publicist.
Omielan intersperses her hour-long monologue — part therapy session, part musical ode — with several of Beyonce's songs, and gets the crowd to sing along. The comic insists, though, she not just a gushing fan, but a genuine admirer. And her show's eponymous question isn't just a theme or punch line, it's a mantra.
“It's not me trying to be Beyonce,” Omielan says. “It's me trying to be the best at myself. That's why I'm kind of inspired by her. She wouldn't be so huge if her music wasn't as accessible as it is. She was married when she wrote 'Single Ladies,' but it's become an anthem for women everywhere. She's an entrepreneur. She's done it through hard work. She writes her own songs. She's got an incredible voice. As a role model, she's incredible. She makes me think that I wanna be the Beyonce of comedy.”
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