Celebrated novelist, playwright and social commentator JD Priestly was once quoted as saying: “Comedy is society protecting itself with a smile”. In today’s turbulent times, comedians are more important than ever, as there can be no doubt that we need a laugh or two every now and again to help keep our spirits up. Most of us have a favourite comedian, whether it be Catherine Tate and her infamous creation, the always foul-mouthed Nan, Brendan O’Carroll and his quintessential “Irish Mammy” Agnes Brown, or even the team from Saturday Night Live, who take a satirical look at everyone and everything, most notable recently for their take on Donald Trump and his faux-pas prone aides. The wonderful thing about comedy is that there will always be an individual or style to appeal to all tastes. On the Irish front, we have many to be proud of, from Dara Ó’Briain to Deirdre O’Kane, who have represented this country on both a national and international scale.
One lady who has been steadily making a name for herself on the Irish comedy scene thanks to her comedic characters and Youtube videos is Enya Martin (24). I first met Enya in 2015, when we both happened to take the same Acting for Camera course at the Irish Film Academy in Temple Bar in Dublin. From the outset, it was obvious that she had an immense talent for acting in all genres, but in particular comedy, where she has flourished since taking the leap, and setting up her Youtube channel, Giz A Laugh in 2014. It’s clear to see that fame hasn’t changed her. She’s still warm, friendly, un-assuming and as amazed as anyone about her quick rise to the forefront of Irish comedy. Born and raised in Clondalkin in Dublin, Martin caught the creativity bug early on, and she saw numerous situations and people she would later draw on in her comedy performances. Initially, she had never thought of it as a career option.
“It was more of a hobby, something I did with friends to entertain myself. I always found I was good at making people laugh and had a quick wit. I took part in a few drama workshops as a teenager and I really enjoyed them. My dad’s side of the family have a history of taking part in stage school, pantomimes, film making, so I think it was in the genes from the get go. Never for a second did I think of pursuing it as a career as I thought it would be impossible to make money from. Not only that, but society tells us we must go to school, then college, then succumb to the 9-5 life. Which is why I went to college really.”
When college did come around, Martin applied for a Creative Digital Media course, which she didn’t get into. Undeterred, she decided to pursue her next choice, which was Marketing at IT Tallaght. Having had an interest in business studies through school, and noticing the potential for creativity with advertising, it seemed like a good choice. But after a couple of years, her interest began to wane and it became a case of going through the motions.
“I made some great friends, but after year three my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I still stuck it out and graduated, and I received my degree in summer 2015.”
During her time at IT Tallaght in 2014, she decided to pursue her ambition of setting up a YouTube Channel to share her characters with the world. She instantly knew she was on to something that she was “naturally good at and enjoyed”. People began to respond to her videos, and her creations “Chanto” (short for Chantelle), a rough around the edges twenty-something troublemaker from the North Side of Dublin and “Shardon” (Sharon), a chain-smoking, rant-loving take on the “Irish Mammy”.
“My characters are inspired by people I grew up with around my area, people I went to school with”, she explains. “A hybrid of all these people, there isn’t just one person I base it on. Although the relationship aspect of Chanto and Anto (Chanto’s boyfriend) is based on a relationship I know of. Shardon is loosely based off my mam, and also, other mothers I got to see and know over the years.”
Martin’s hard work has paid off. Her Youtube account has been viewed millions of times, while an accompanying Facebook page has more than 170,000 followers, and counting. Drawing on her experience studying marketing, and combining it with her talent has seen her create a one-woman comedy brand that has people all over the world in stiches. She says she is lucky, because the reaction to her videos has been largely positive, something that not everybody is able to say, given the rise of social media trolling in recent years.
“You have to have a thick skin to get into this line of work and trolling and hate was what held me back from posting videos on Facebook for so long. I was afraid I couldn’t handle it. But over time you just develop a mentality where you know these are petty people who are borderline sociopaths, their lives are so full of anger that they need to take it out on people who are achieving their dreams. I never reply to nasty comments, I don’t give them the satisfaction that I noticed them. I usually just block them so they can’t do it again.”
It is not just the odd nasty comment from a keyboard warrior that Martin has had to contend with. In addition to her own characters, she gained national attention recently for her series of videos spoofing some well know TV shows and movies, most notably her video entitled ‘If Mean Girls was set in Dublin’. The video sees Martin take classic scenes from the teen comedy and dub them over with gags reminiscent of Irish life. Given how relatable they are, it was inevitable they would resonate with people. But, their success has also come with its own problems. There have been issues with people sharing her work on their pages and not even giving credit to Martin for creating them, or even flat out copying them. It’s something that she finds frustrating and hard to combat, and she is unrelenting in her condemnation of the practice.
“My Dublin voice over videos have been attempted by some people, but they never reach the engagement scale that my ones do. I don’t condone people taking my video and uploading it to their page, even if they credit me in the caption, they’re still taking views away from me. They’re doing it for their own benefit and not mine. If you can’t be original then don’t make content.”
This year has seen her take another big step: bringing her comedy to the stage, with a series of shows in various comedy venues around Dublin, and even being booked for the Wexford comedy festival Jestfest, which took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend. The experience has been both nerve-wrecking and hugely rewarding.
“My first gig was in ‘Pop the Cherry’ in Whelan’s in Dublin City Centre”, she reveals. “It’s a great spot to give stand up a go for the first time. I was nervous, but very prepared and it went down a storm. I got so many loud laughs and a few claps. I walked off stage thinking, ‘I could do this for the rest of my life’. I’ve done many gigs to date now and I still love it”.
Making the move from behind the camera doing solo shoots to crowds in a venue was something Martin had to adapt to and of course, as with every situation, stand-up has its ups and downs. But, as Martin reflects, you must be able to take the good with the bad.
“You will get the odd gig that flops. Sometimes it’s not the right crowd or sometimes it’s you. You just need to be prepared for this, not every gig will be a ride in the park. It took me so long to get on stage because I was so used to being behind a camera and although millions of people have seen my videos, it’s a different story standing up in front of a crowd. Onstage you only get one take, on camera you can do multiple takes.”
Along with her massive following and sold out gigs, Martin has also received recognition for her work at various awards shows, most recently winning the Best Newcomer category at the Goss.ie Awards 2017. Finding herself nominated in a category with some of Ireland’s best known talent was an incredible achievement, and she was overjoyed to go all the way and scoop the prize.
“It felt amazing that I was getting recognition for doing something that I love. It was a lovely experience and I couldn’t believe I was in a category with some of Ireland’s biggest comedians, and influencers. I remember hearing James Patrice call my name out on stage and I have never felt prouder of myself. What started out in 2014 as a bit of a laugh and a hobby, has got me to that. It’s great”.
So, with the world at her feet, what’s next for the lady who just loves to make people laugh?
“I definitely want to keep the videos going, maybe develop a Southside Dublin character or a UK character or American. I want to focus on building a stage name and hopefully play Vicar Street in 2018. I also have a booking agent. He got me my own theatre show in the summer. We’re performing in four venues around Dublin. I’m writing and producing it. I hired actors and a director also. I can’t wait to explore this new avenue.”
It’s safe to say that Martin doesn’t lack ambition. And she has certainly contributed to further dispelling the misguided belief shared by some that women can’t be funny and shouldn’t do comedy. It’s something she passionately disagrees with.
“The thing about comedy is you either have it or you don’t. You get better with time. No matter what sex you are, if you are hilarious then you’re hilarious. I do wish there were more women in comedy in Ireland. I believe there are many women out there who have the wit and the talent, but just lack the confidence.”
I ask her what’s the one piece of advice she would give to anyone who wants to emulate her success, but just needs that confidence boost.
“You need a thick skin. Be prepared for people with opposing opinions. Be prepared for trolls. But mostly rise above it all. If you believe you are good at something then it doesn’t matter what petty people think. If you have a large following, these people love you for being you, so pay attention to these and not the haters. Social media is bigger than TV these days, so take advantage of it. If you do it right you can make a living from it. I am now making a living from doing what I love, and I couldn’t be happier.”
If you fancy heading along to one of Enya’s live shows this summer, you can find more information and book tickets at the following links: