Twenty four year old Romanian Alina Paduraru is clearly unphased by having a lot on her plate. She runs her own comedy night “Alina’s colours night”, which features stand up centred around a certain theme associated with a different colour every show; runs her own hilarious blog “The Junk in my Head” and is head of The Comedy Society at Imperial College London, where she is currently doing her PhD in Immunology. And here was you thinking that all students do with their free time is binge on Netflix and shag anything that moves.
If you type her name into YouTube the first video you’ll find is a clip of Alina’s audition for Romanian talent show iUmor, which she entered earlier this year:
“iUmor (literally translates as ‘got humour’) is a very popular show in Romania, which is just for comedy. My favourite Romanian rapper is one of the judges, so I saw it as a chance to see him in person (part of my set was parodying one of his songs). That was the first time ever I was performing in the Romanian language – and, except for some translated jokes, the material was new. That was my 6th gig ever (I know, I’m an idiot) and my first bombing (it was the only time I’ve bombed so far, and the universe made sure a whole nation got to see it). I got on stage and the theatre was much darker than I expected. Not because they had bad lightning, but because I was having a panic attack and I was about to faint at any moment. I had to remind myself to resist the urge to run away or faint for five minutes and then everything would be fine. I ended up being on stage for at least 15 minutes. The jokes were very well received, but my legs were trembling like crazy and it was very distracting. They figured out it was my first performance in Romanian and made me do it in English, which was more relaxing and I got through to the next stage. The next stage is basically people voting for you on an app and if you get enough votes you go through to the final. I received two ‘likes’ (one from my favourite rapper, yay!) and one dislike on the grounds that I was nervous, not because of the jokes – which is why I didn’t slit my wrists after what I perceived at the time as the most embarrassing and soul-eating experience of my life. I am definitely glad now that I did it”.
It seems that Alina isn’t put off by the pressure of big competitions- her audition for “So You Think you’re Funny?” was her third ever time performing stand up. This October she will be participating in Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year and feels her past experience of competitions has given her an idea of what not to do:
“This time I will try to fight the urge of being a complete idiot and performing new material in a language I have not tried before!”
But it’s not just in her mother tongue that Alina is delivering all the punchlines. Her English stand up offers sharp, punchy and clever observations on modern life, often with a dark or blue afterthought that you didn’t see coming – “I used to be a prostitute and I got fired because I wasn’t very good in bed, but another thing Natasha [my pimp] didn’t like was that I was giving out too many discounts to children.” And she has no qualms addressing issues and cultural taboos such as sexism and prejudice towards immigrants- “My PhD interview was so hard, my knee still hurts. I’m joking, I’m joking I won this position fair and square like any Romanian- I stole it.” She also has us Brits completely sussed out- “British people are so polite, you kind of have your own Morse code for communication –sorrysorrysorryplaseplasepleasethankyouthankyouthankyou”.
Whether she’s headlining her own night, relaying her scientific research through jokes or performing in a living room, Alina is a ballsy and confident performer, who isn’t afraid to try new ideas out- in fact her YouTube videos rarely contain the same jokes. Instead Paduraru delivers tailor made sets with jokes that have been chosen with her audience in mind, whether they be world weary engineering students or science enthusiasts, Alina has the ability to write jokes for everyone.
The most intriguing thing about Alina as a performer, however, is her plan to use comedy to raise awareness about issues in science that she’s passionate about:
“I wish to make a name in comedy by the time I finish my PhD and use the stage as a means to raise awareness about some terrible things that happen in science. It is my firm belief that science would be in a far more advanced place right now in terms of curing disease if people cared about the bigger goal more than their egos when it comes to accepting and rejecting papers. But to be taken seriously, I need to gain enough credibility first as a public speaker (and having been awarded a doctorate degree will certainly help).
She’s also keen to get other students involved in comedy and stand up:
“I am the newly elected president of The Comedy Society at Imperial College London, and I wish to do a really good job in encouraging students to give it a try, because it is such a great experience from with you learn a lot about who you are and what you value. I also want to put together shows where students present their research through comedy. People laugh because they understand the joke, and once you understand something it sticks with you for good. Because of this I think stand-up comedy is an excellent platform for teaching people new things and raising awareness about issues I am passionate about.”
Despite being fairly new to the stand-up game, it’s clear that Alina has big plans for her future in comedy. It seems like when it comes to combining entertainment and serious issues, she’s found the perfect formula.
Catch Alina performing at “The Holy Night” – A comedy night dedicated to religion and spirituality – 14th of October, Imperial College Union, The Metric Bar, London