Daphna Baram is an Israeli living in the UK. Formerly a lawyer in Israel, she is now a freelance journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Guardian. She also performs as a comedian under the name Miss D. Until this year, she has always kept her Daphna Baram and Miss D personas separate.
But her Edinburgh Fringe show this year was called Killing Miss D.
I saw it in London last week and she is about to tour it round the UK.
“In the past,” I said to her, “you’ve had members of the Palestine Solidarity Group coming in to see your shows.”
“Yes,” agreed Daphna. “In Edinburgh and in Glasgow, I was calling on people to join the Palestine Solidarity Group. Though when they do come – a lot of them are serious political activists – they like the political bits in my shows but I’m not sure how comfortable they are about the Miss D bits. I think that is the thing with my shows. Nobody ever gets everything what they expect; they always get more than they bargained for.
“I’ve been an activist on Palestine for many years and it comes into my writing and my comedy and journalism and everything I do. But I can’t do only political material.”
“Which,” I said, “is the divergence in your shows between Daphna Baram and your comedian persona Miss D.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “So Killing Miss D is about the gap between Daphna Baram, the good conscientious political journalist and ex-lawyer who wants to liberate Palestine… and Miss D… and how I try to kill Miss D because you and all sorts of people kept saying: Stop performing as Miss D; start performing as you.
“I tried and tried to be solely myself, but Miss D kept pushing me off the stage. So, in the end, the division of labour on Killing Miss D is this: Daphna has written the show but Miss D says she is performing it because she is the better performer. And, the way Miss D sees it, she performs it because she is pretty and I’m not.
“Instead of trying to eliminate each other off stage, we are talking together about how we tried to kill each other. Miss D by giving Daphna a heart attack, by living a wild life, by taking all sorts of risks and misbehaving. And… well, in the show, Miss D explains how Daphna is trying to kill her.”
“So,” I said, “it’s just a comedy show. Not therapy.”
“Massively therapy,” replied Daphna. “Very Gestalt. But I don’t like shows that are therapeutic in the sense that the act is falling on the neck of the audience and asking them for salvation. I think it’s good to do a show that is therapeutic after you’ve already done the therapy and done the process of integrating your characters. I could not have done this show while Daphna Baram and Miss D were very acrimonious to each other.”
“What’s the difference between the two?” I asked.
“Miss D is funny.”
“But Daphna Baram is funny too,” I said.
“Daphna’s funny,” admitted Daphna, “but she also knows irony and has political jokes. Miss D is… Well, reviewers always say she’s sassy and vivacious and loud. One word someone suggested on Facebook was ‘rambunctious’ and I like the sound of that. I guess she’s most often called ‘sassy’.”
“I instinctively feel you are,” I said, “but I’m never too sure exactly what ‘sassy’ means when referring to comedians.”
“I think it means ‘has big tits’ doesn’t it?” replied Daphna.
“That would be it,” I agreed.
“My act is difficult to describe,” said Daphna.
“You were,” I said, “in a ‘Best of Irish’ show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Despite the fact you’re an Israeli Jew.”
“I think it’s easier for people from the Eastern Mediterranean,” she said, “to gel with the Irish than for us to gel with the English. I don’t know if it’s a Celtic thing. Maybe it’s a bit of a Catholic thing.”
“You gel with them because you’re Catholic?” I asked.
“I think all Jews are kind of Catholic.”
“Maybe it’s the guilt,” I suggested,.
“I think,” said Daphna, “it’s something to do with the sense of… I think… I think when I met Irish people, I mainly thought They’re Arabs.”
“You are an Israeli,” I pointed out to Daphna. “You’re not supposed to get on with the Arabs.”
“But we ARE kind of Arabs.”
“Semitic, yeah,” I said.
“We’re similar in our traditions,” explained Daphna, “in the way we view the… We have big families… We have a strong sense of friendship… Our friends become part of our extended family… You can very quickly become someone’s Best Mate after three hours of drinking.”
“So this is an Israeli admitting the Arabs and Israeli are actually all the same Semitic people?” I asked.
“It’s not a race thing…” said Daphna.
“You may be right,” I said. “The Irish like killing each other… just like the Arabs and Israelis like killing each other. It’s like supporters of two football teams in the same city hating each other.”
“This is not what I’m trying to say,” said Daphna. “Maybe I just like the Irish cos they’re great guys.”
“So how,” I asked, “did they explain on stage that, in a show billed as ‘Best of Irish Comedy’, there was suddenly a Jewish Israeli woman performing.”
“They didn’t explain,” said Daphna. “They just introduced me.”
“That’s very Irish,” I said.
“I had to go on stage and explain which part of Ireland my accent stems from. I said I was from the Eastern Colonies.”
“Well, to look at you,” I said, “I suppose you could be Spanish and there’s lots of Spanish blood in southern Ireland from the Armada when the sailors got washed ashore from the ships that sank.”
“It’s not a race thing,” said Daphna.