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Life after Girton with Ania Magliano: porridge, comedy and blank sheets of paper

Ania Magliano with James Wade

Ania Magliano is a London-based stand-up comedian. I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This, her sold-out show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, has been widely acclaimed. ‘Elegantly amusing, surprising and inspiring’, says The Times; ‘will have you crying with laughter’, says The Guardian. The Scotsman calls Magliano ‘a trickster’ and ‘a truly original voice’; Time Out calls her ‘brilliantly twisted’. 

During her sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Girton alumna Ania Magliano (2016 English) somehow found time to team up with her former Director of Studies, Dr James Wade (Jane Elizabeth Martin Fellow in English) for an ‘in conversation’ event at the National Library of Scotland: ‘Medieval Comedy in the Modern World’. They talked about medieval jokes, modern audiences, and the enduring appeal of live-performance comedy. Following the event, they sat down to talk about Ania’s career in comedy, life after Cambridge, and what she remembers most about Girton. 

JW: When you think of Girton College, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

AM: Porridge for dinner. I can’t cook, so I made porridge every night in my first year. Oh, and friends. I met one of my best friends on my first day at Girton. That’s one of the great things about College life, having your friends so close and in the same place. 

JW: Is that the main difference between College life and the real world?

AM: That, and essay deadlines. In the real world there are not so many essay deadlines. Also, less cycling.

JW: How did you get into comedy?

AM: It started at school. I’m not cool. I’m not sporty. I’m not academic. So, I guess I had to be funny. It was the last option if I wanted any social currency. 

JW: Why did you apply to Girton?

AM: Honestly, I came to the interviews not sure if I really wanted to go to Cambridge, but it was seeing the College and meeting people at the interviews that made me want to come. I thought, ‘Oh, people here are just normal people’. Well, most of them. It was visiting the College and meeting people that motivated me to get the A-Levels I needed to get in.

JW: Did you learn anything during your time at Girton that has helped you in your career as a comedian? 

AM: The main thing I learned, that the many, many essay deadlines taught me, is to be comfortable sitting down with a blank sheet of paper. I am very regimented in how I work, and a lot of that work ethic developed out of supervisions. Part of the magic of stand-up comedy is giving audiences the impression of it all being off the cuff. Comedy works when audiences suspend their disbelief and don’t think about how wrought and meticulously planned it all is. 

JW: Were you involved in the comedy scene while in Cambridge?

AM: I started with Footlights straight away. I am also a comedy nerd. I wrote my Part II dissertation on comedy, and I found in literature many models and techniques for stand-up. Having control and understanding of how stories work, how language works, is a massive part of comedy. 

JW: What’s next for you?

AM: I’m taking my show – I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This – on tour beginning in the new year, with a stop at the Cambridge Junction on Saturday 3 February 2024, 7:30pm. You can still purchase the last few remaining tickets online.

For other tour dates, and to book tickets, visit Ania’s website:

You can also follow Ania on X/Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Editorial note: The following interview has been condensed and edited for this news article.