Bea was born and raised in rural County Kildare. Her father, Brian, was an equine vet who died suddenly when she was three years old. Bea and her younger sister, Sinéad, were raised by their mother, Helen (née Moloney), a secondary school teacher, jockey trainer and former professional jockey. Her family were "obsessed" with horses and race meetings and, during her young years, Bea worked as a tour guide at the Irish National Stud. However, she knew from a young age that she was not interested in the racing industry "as a career" and instead enjoyed performing.
When Bea was thirteen, her mother revealed that her father had died by suicide. She adopted the stage name ‘Bea’ as a tribute to her father and wrote an article for The Guardian in 2017 about her family's experience of suicide.
Bea was educated at a Catholic convent school and then studied French and philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. She was part of a student sketch comedy group and moved to London after graduation to study acting. In 2008, she completed a two-year course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
After drama school, Bea spent two years trying to get work in theatre as a dramatic actress. Instead, she found she was cast mainly in comedic television series including Cardinal Burns and Dead Boss (both 2012). While filming Dead Boss in 2011, Bea decided to try stand-up comedy. In 2012, she won the Gilded Balloon So You Think You're Funny award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and, in 2013, was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards for her show C'est La Bea.
The exposure brought by these awards marked a "turning point" in Bea's career and she began to appear as a regular guest on panel shows including QI, Insert Name Here and The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Bea and Yasmine Akram co-wrote and co-hosted the BBC Radio 4 comedy folkflore series Micks and Legends (2012, 2015); it was nominated for a Chortle Award in 2013. Bea won the 2014 British Comedy Award for Best Female TV Comic and returned to Edinburgh in 2015 with the live show Plan Bea. In 2016, she became a team captain on 8 Out of 10 Cats and was a cast member on Taskmaster in 2017.
Bea has continued to act in television sitcoms including Trollied (2014-2015) and The Delivery Man (2015), and the crime dramas The Fall (2016) and Hard Sun (2018). In 2018, she and Sara Pascoe began to co-host the BBC Radio 2 comedy chat show What's Normal?. She has recorded a 15 minute stand-up special to be aired on Netflix in late 2018.
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