Channel 4 Learning

From the Top

Background information

Some figures from the programme

  • The highest paid comedians can earn £10,000 per week
  • Working in the prison service Ava earned £17,000 per year
  • A comedian first starting out will probably earn £60 per gig

Early life and education
Ava was born in 1976 to a diplomat's family in South London. Her father worked for the Foreign Office, and she spent three years living in Damascus, Syria. She was expelled from four boarding schools before going on to study at City and Islington Sixth Form Centre. Ava obtained 7 GCSEs but discontinued her studies after becoming pregnant at the age of 18.

First career decision
After working poorly paid jobs for four years at around £4 per hour, Ava followed her mother into the prison service. With a salary of £17,000 a year Ava spent four years as a prison guard. But after day in and day out of being verbally abused, the stress was too much to handle and she quit.

The turning point
After leaving the prison service, Ava's life took a downward turn. Now a single mum with two children she became more and more depressed. After months of living hand to mouth, she decided to return to school to study for a law degree as a mature student. But after 5 years the strain began to show. By chance she met a friend who told her about a talent contest sponsored by the BBC. She decided to take her chances and enter the competition.

Conflict: the major and the minor
At the beginning of her career, it was a long slog of poorly paid gigs and long hours across the country. Ava didn't see her children very much and was constantly tired but she gained experience bit by bit. She gave herself 18 months to make a good living out of it or else she'd give it up. She entered a reality programme with veteran performers all living under one roof together. Her reputation and skills as a comedian were put to the test. What could have been a career-ending decision opened up greater possibilities. From her experience she gained a prestigious agent in the industry.

Ava is now on to the next rung of success as a stand-up comedian. She continues to hone her routine as well as successfully raise her two children. She has vowed never to give up.

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