Kate Smurthwaite

On this date in 1975, comedian Kate Smurthwaite was born in London. After growing up in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, she studied mathematics at Lincoln College, Oxford, from 1994-97 and then worked in London and Japan as a convertible bond researcher for UBS Warburg, an investment bank. She started performing comedy professionally in 2004 and describes herself on her website as “a left-wing, feminist, atheist stand-up comedian and political activist.” (To wit: “Isn’t it weird when atheists call their child Christian? Surely it should be Godfrey?”)

She’s a regular contributor to mainstream print publications and to BBC and Sky News television and radio shows, both as a writer and commentator. In 2014 her science show “The Evolution Will Be Televised” was nominated for an award by the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, a group that fosters business models that don’t have to rely entirely on donations from nonprofits and government funding. She has also taught stand-up at the City Academy in London.

BBC Radio 4’s “Four Thought” series in 2012 included a 15-minute program written and performed by Smurthwaite about sexist humor and sexism in comedy. She later responded to former BBC director of television Danny Cohen’s suggestion to have at least one woman on panel shows by calling it a highly progressive idea — if he’d had it in the 1950s: “This is 2016. There’s absolutely no reason why panel shows can’t have 50 percent women on all the time. There are loads of great female comedians. … Plus, when you have just one woman on, she becomes the representative of all womankind rather than just a guest, free to muck about.”

As a popular guest on BBC One’s religious debate show “The Big Questions” (sometimes representing the National Secular Society), Smurthwaite feistily stood up for nonbelievers. A 2010 clip that went viral under the name “Atheist Bitchslap” got 3.8 million views on YouTube. The question was “Does heaven exist?” Responding to a man who said every aborted child is in heaven, she said, “So we would be doing them a favor by aborting them then?” She went on to say, “Faith is believing in things without evidence, and I don’t do that because I’m not an idiot.”

Jon Cartwright photo

Freedom From Religion Foundation