Horny, Bisexual, Romcom: A Review of Olga Koch’s ‘Just Friends’
Olga, a Russian-born London-based comic, brought her sell out Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Just Friends’ to Hyde Park Book Club. With credentials spanning from Mock the Week (rip) to a Master’s degree in Computer Science, she’s living proof that you can get a girl who does both.
We sat down before her show in the slightly dingy yet somehow charming green room and discussed our favourite Taylor Swift songs, the Harry Styles x Olivia Wilde drama and her favourite pre-show hype songs. Charming, poised and truly kind, her warming presence radiated far beyond the confines of the boarded-up walls. It was an absolute pleasure to pick the brain of such a lovely and inspiring person.
What was your main inspiration for the show?
Is my life a fair enough answer? My life. I’d say my life. The literal events of my life happening. I had no intention of writing a show. I was doing a lot of new material gigs and I had to pad out time where I didn’t have anything to say and I was like ‘guys do you want to know what happened today?’. In the very beginning I was like ‘do you want to see these text messages?’. It was very much me just padding time and then in the grander scheme of things I was very inspired by music and songs. For my entire pre-show playlist, I can pin point what 2 minutes of stand-up was inspired. Very Taylor Swift moment. (Favourite song off of Midnights? Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve)
What do you want people to take away from your show?
The show has a very specific message which I essentially spell out at the very end. The two main takeaways, I’d say, is to never be afraid of rejection, ever and number two is that bi-men are better than straight men. I will die on that hill.
Who are your comedic inspirations?
I got into comedy because I love ‘Flight of the Conchords’ who are two musical comics who are very whimsical but I’m not a musical comic and I’m not whimsical so it was more so that I loved the way they made me feel and for my entire career I’ve been chasing the way that they make me feel
What’s your favourite thing about tour life?
Favourite is meeting people. My favourite thing to do at the end of a gig is to say ‘yo let’s grab a drink’. Yesterday I said that and we ended up drinking with the entire Loughborough Feminist Society. It was so much fun! In York we went out and I had the feeling you get when you’re having a one-night stand in a foreign city like ‘I have nothing to lose’ ‘I can be whoever I want to be’. That’s how I feel when I’m on tour where I will come into a city and I’m sure the girl won’t mind me telling you this but there was a couple who were in a ‘who are they aren’t they’ type situation like let’s not put any labels on anything and I went up to the guy and said ‘you have to ask her to be your girlfriend’ and now they’re official! All the friends were like ‘oh no it’s gonna fuck up the dynamics of the friend group’ but someone needed to say it. I’m like a travelling vigilante.
Describe your show in three words
Oooooh. Ok. Horny, bisexual, romcom
What is post amazon special life like? What’s changed?
I don’t know if anybody’s seen it! You’re the only person who’s seen it. I got asked to do an interview for Leeds university. Yes, my life has changed.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I put a freakish amount of care into my pre-show playlist. It gets me into the zone and it helps me almost revise the show because I hear songs that influenced it and I love the ritual of doing my makeup for the show. Also, me and Pravanya, who is an incredible stand-up comedian who’s kindly doing my support, love going through obscure celebrity gossip. It feels good. The amount of good work that Olivia Wilde and Harry Styles have done! It’s everything!
Do you have a favourite hype song/ pre show song
Yesterday we were listening to Karma by Taylor Swift. We have to honour Midnights but we also can’t let it be a downer if we’re trying to get ourselves amped. We were listening to Fergalicious today. We’re looking for good upbeat vibes. The entire new Beyonce album too. Basically, when you’re pre-gaming a show it’s like you’re pre-gaming a party.
If there was a film of your life, who would you want to play you?
Jennifer Coolidge who played Stiffler’s Mom. She’s incredible. The dream is to just be able to play yourself.
Who’s the one person you want to work with?
Mitski! I love her so much! I love her vision and her ethos. I am so thoroughly on board with everything about her outside of music. I love her music, I love her production, I love her lyrics, the way that she decides to do promo. I’m so on board with everything.
Which fictional character do you relate most to?
Can I say Stiffler’s Mom again?
If you could trade bodies with anyone for the day, who would it be?
I want to trade bodies with Harry Styles. I think that would be so fun. The coolest clothes. Be able to sing at the highest level and act with people who are acting at the highest level.
Who is a comedian that everybody should know but doesn’t?
Pravanya Pillay! She’s incredible. She’s very very funny. She’s also the most fashionable person I know!
Where can people find you?
As you mentioned I have a special on Amazon. I’m on twitter, Instagram, tiktok, on tour! Better question is where can they not find me! They can find me at the Loughborough Feminist Society meetings. Every week from now on.
Her pre-show hype playlist consisted of songs which toe the line between teen angst and female hysteria. Indie icons such as Snail Mail and Haim were followed by Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Brutal’ which aided in giving a taste of what was to come in the show.
Before the main event started, Olga came on stage and openly invited anyone in the audience to join her and Pravanya (her amazing support act) at a karaoke bar later on. Koch’s ability to remain humble after achieving so much is admirable. The only suitable word that comes to mind when describing her is ‘legend’. It goes without saying that I attended, shot tequila and ruined Hollaback Girl for eight unwilling strangers. We ended the night with hugs and a promise that if I’m ever in London, we’ll party together. The fact that she doesn’t feel the need to take herself too seriously proves more about her as a performer than any credentials ever could. She’s confident without being arrogant and truly loves what she gets to do.
Olga’s show, ‘Just Friends’, details a year in her life in which she gets broken up with and meets someone new. As two bisexuals, decisions were never made and the two became Just Friends. Told through the prop of a phone (whereupon a member of the audience was trusted), Olga relives the awkward and business-like texts from her romantic interest in which he uses confusing emojis (such as the ‘handshake’) and says he thinks they’re better off as friends.
As she embarks on the journey of her romantic life, Koch redefines ‘Hoe Culture’ in many ways including Stiffler’s Mom from American Pie, the name Neil and breaking the fourth wall as examples. Olga redefines what it is to be a Hoe in the midst of her post-breakup delusional confidence where she was fixated on having a three-some (albeit with Captain Tom) and having sex with a rockstar. Longing for that ‘Rom Com’ ending that is engrained in early 90s babies’ minds, she even attended the Mamma Mia Live Experience three times. After all, the Mamma Mia Cinematic Universe is her MCU.
Inspired heavily by 90s legends such as Alanis Morrisette and Shania Twain, this show gave the idea of rejection a new meaning. Olga sees rejection as a starting point and not something to be scared of. It’s a new beginning and a chance to start again. If you’re at the bottom, there’s only one way up. As well as having a moving message, Koch wants people to know that she’s ‘cool’ and ‘fucks’. The way she openly talks about her sexual escapades on stage is refreshing to see. She doesn’t shy away from any topic much like a man wouldn’t. Olga is unbound by gendered stereotypes on stage which does more for feminism than an Instagramable infographic ever could.
The grand finale of the show was a final text message (after the applause) where Koch’s love interest finally admitted his feelings for her after watching Notting Hill. She ended with ‘I’m Julia Roberts, bitch’ and walked off to ‘Man I Feel Like a Woman!’ by Shania Twain. It felt like the whole show was leading up to something which ended up being that final and impactful line. The message of the show was clear, if you want a Rom Com ending then date a bi guy.
Olga’s still on tour so if you’re able to catch her, I can’t recommend the show enough!
Instagram: @kolga300, @pravanyapillay69
Words: Kate Moxon
Image credit- Berk’s Nest