An Interview with Stephen Catling

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Stephen Catling is coming back to Camden with ‘something that is both DIFFERENT AND GOOD’


Hello Stephen, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Live in London but hail from Sheffield.

When did you first realise you were funny?
High school year 9 in my RE class my group wrote a parody of Noah’s ark , Noah’s Tardis – I played Noah’s son Bob who keeps dying and reincarnating as different animals both my teacher and class were in stitches. Mrs. Stafford described it as very “pythonesque” and asked us to record it for future students, so I think she might have liked it. I was also partial to doing voices e.g. Gollum and Stitch.

How did you get into comedy?
I Joined Lancaster University Comedy Institute (LUCI) in my first year at Lancaster. I did my first stand-up set in December 2012 and from then to 2017 I did it irregularly. I would come with a new 5 to 10 minute set to County comedy club every time (it was the society’s policy),we did not allow a performer on without going to the workshops making sure it was good. When I moved south in 2017 I started performing regularly and have not stopped since as I perfect the material from university and also write new stuff.

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What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
I usually take inspiration from a film or have an idea that is a “what if?” “What would a social justice warrior say about Ghostbusters if they were defending ghost rights?” #afterlives matter – this then leads to me running with the idea. Other ideas may come from the weird nature of animals, particular invertebrates as their reproduction methods are from our perspective weird and wacky – like flatworm penis fencing (I did not make that up and probably learnt it from one of Dr Carin Bondar’s shows). Regardless of the idea, I follow a surreal and absurd idea and then try to take it to its natural conclusion. In the process though, there is a lot of trial and error, and initial ideas may not work but they inspire new ideas and so and so forth, as I work on those ideas on the stage. I have a very good memory but I also record nearly all performances, which I listen to and then work out what I am doing right and wrong, and where can I go.

Which comedians have inspired you; both old skool & contemporary?
Old Skool it would be first and foremost Billy Connolly as he was my first ever stand up , Monty Python due to surrealism and Bill Hicks for his frankness. As for more contemporary comics this is harder but I am going to have to say Bo Burnham, Auntie Donna (the Australian sketch group not my Aunt Donna, I don’t have an Aunt Donna) and Elf Lyons all due to their inventiveness.

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Who are Whiskey & Mÿlk?
That would be David Anthony (resident MC for city club comedy club) and I as the respective roles, we wanted to do a double act where we combined our thoughts, perspectives and styles as an experiment; we did want to do a split bill but realised that whoever went on first would screw over the other over. David is a dark comic that talks about suicide, drug use, depression you know cheery topics and I like to do surrealist and absurdist set pieces with overarching story. We created something where I play Mylk a Gollum-esque creature that was not always so who is being interviewed by David as he talks on familiar trodden topics. What we created was insane and many of our peers have been curious because the combination is strange, unlikely and insane but despite odds we did create something that has legs (even if they are baby-legs).

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You’re performing at this year’s Camden Fringe, what are you bringing to the table?
Something that is both DIFFERENT AND GOOD. There are things that I do in my own material that have not really been done before like an exorcisms. When a comedian with such a resume as the award winning Dan Antopolski says to you that your ideas are both bloody funny, silly and inventively twisted I think you are probably onto a winner.

You performed the show last year, at Brighton & Camden, what did you learn from it all & have you tweaked the show in the interim?
Between Camden 2018 and Brighton 2019 I doubled the length of the show and with the material that was transferred there were huge changes such as adding audience participation bits, music and more stripping, my answer usually is go more crazier even at university one of my dear friends Jack Maidment said he expects to find me one day in Manchester shitting on stage to rapturous applause because I can. From Camden I learnt not to do an 18:00 show as people are usually still working or just finished at work and this impacts audience size and that I could actually write and perform more than 10 minutes of material at one time and not have anybody die from exhaustion (my material is consistently high energy so it can get very intense and there were also concerns of diminishing returns). Brighton 2019 again taught that yes I can also do 45 minutes show (and likely and hour but not anytime soon) but also not to worry about the completeness of a show, I saw many other shows in Brighton Fringe some of them even the performers admitted they had not necessarily finished making changes to their own shows and so I need to stop worrying about everything being perfect. In addition to never ever take an early afternoon slot for my show because again it is too early even on a weekend for my target audience.

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What is a Jawlesque?
The unholy union between the film jaws and burlesque /It is the offstage name I give to sharklesque which is where I dance with a shark mask to “the stripper” , it will not make sense to those who have not seen the show. A little back story behind it is that I often perform at cabaret/variety nights like cabaret lab (which 1st Sunday of the Month at the Caroline of Brunswick in Brighton) where I discovered different genres of burlesque such as boylesque (male burlesque), nerdlesque (nerdy burlesque e.g. someone dressed as Ripley from alien stripping to I have got you under my skin to reveal a chest burster) and gorelesque (I don’t think I need to explain that one) ; these terms and combinations delighted me and I somehow ending creating sharklesque.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
The show must be more than just funny, what I think makes a show truly special is when the show has something unique to it, something only the performers in that show could do even if it is a different perspective on something but my preference is something that is inventive and immersive. I don’t really look for some big message and I think the worst comedy shows feel like ted-talks and/or are too predictable.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of London, what would you say?
Either “I perform an exorcism on myself” and/or it’s like Harry Potter but if he was in train spotting possibly while wearing a shark mask or dressed as a demon.

What will you are doing for the rest of 2019?
Trying to get a better job that will fund Edinburgh 2020 and potentially other festivals which will likely involve taking training courses in cell culture, protein biochemistry, I recently did an internship in a malaria research lab so I might look for similar fields of research as I find parasitology and immunology fascinating. I will also try and take a course in clowning and/or join Soho young theatre company.


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Stephen Catling vs. Himself & Other Monsters

2 Northdown

Ag 1-3 (21:00)

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www.facebook.com/comediancatling

An Interview with Mandy Muden

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Blending the magic of comedy & the comedy of magic, Mandy Muden is ready to wow the Edinburgh Fringe…


Hello Mandy, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
London

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
4 years old. I got a doll and my brother got a magic set for Christmas. I wanted the magic set he wanted the doll.

Can you tell us about your training?
I was privileged to be mentored by the legendary Pat Page and comedy clubs. Also I just worked as hard as I could.

Can you tell us about your experience on last year’s Britain’s Got Talent?
I just loved it. There are all sorts of nonsense saying it is fixed, I didn’t feel that at all. I had a ball.

Has BGT changed your life?
I’m a lot busier.

You’ve been on TV quite as bit – which appearances do you like to watch back the most?
I don’t watch any back. I can’t bear to see myself on TV

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You’ve got three famous entertainers (dead or alive) coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Bette Milder, Joan Rivers and the amazing Jonathan. I would probably just get in a couple of crates and something herbal to smoke.

What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
Just sit down and write. I find it very hard but that is the only way.

What is it about being performing in front of other people that makes you tick?
Its the only place I can relax. Because you can’t think about anything else.

You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
It will be comedy and magic. I just want people to have a good laugh

How do you find blending the two pillars of your style; magic & comedy – is it a fine art?
I find most things funny. I really find it hard to take anything seriously.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show on the streets of Edinburgh, what do you say?
Come and have a laugh and see some magic.


Mandy Muden is Not the Invisible Woman

Gilded Balloon Teviot

July 31-Aug 26 (16:00)

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www.mandymudenmagic.com

An Interview with Nathan Cassidy

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Perennially prolific, the terrific Nathan Cassidy has a brand new show & he’s coming to the Edinburgh Fringe…


Hi Nathan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Birmingham and now I live in Hackney in London.

When did you first realise you were, well, funny?
I was about six and it was that atrocious bit at a wedding between the ceremony and the dinner. It was a community hall and I entertained everyone for an hour on the stage. Technically it was my first hour show. I can’t remember the detail but I remember everyone laughing and probably getting emotional at the 40-minute mark when I did a bit about marriage inevitably failing.

Who are your comedy idols?
Growing up it was Rick and Ade, Alexei Sayle, Fry and Laurie and Rowan Atkinson. I’m slightly older than I look (I’m mid to late 20’s). Now it’s Bill Burr, Steve Coogan and anyone on youtube chucking ping pong balls into glasses from a slight distance.

What are the processes behind the creation of one of your shows, from inception to hatching?
Nathan: I like to have an idea around this time of year for the following year, so I can start creating the material over the next six months in new material nights, I do a regular one in London on Mondays where you hear it all first. I’ve got my idea for next year, and the only danger of that is you put too much focus on the following year too early. It’s a very very very good idea though!! I’m going to take it on a bit of a World Tour, New Zealand and America.

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What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A year ago I’d have said writing comedy, a year ago I used to write comedy all the time. On Sunday afternoon maybe I’d have been in the pub or up on Hampstead Heath pretending to see friends but actually I’d have been thinking about comedy, writing comedy in my head. But then, at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, my life changed. I injured my back, in the same way most people injure their backs, by brushing my teeth, so joined a local gym in a bid to sort out my rubbish core. And I met someone. I met a man that would take me on a year of discovery, a truly bizarre year where I didn’t have to write any comedy to churn out another hour show, perfect.

You’ve got a new show for 2019 – can you tell us about it?
So yes, I’ve never really been one for observational comedy because nothing from my day to day life I really found that amusing. Much as it would be lovely to find a routine from having a shower usually I just turn the shower on, have a wash, and get out of the shower. But after meeting this guy at the gym, this massive, strong man, he’s taken me on such a bizarre journey of discovery and self discovery that, brilliantly, the show has kind of written itself. I won’t give too much away but he started as my personal trainer, and quickly became much more. Everything about him and our relationship is unconventional, and ripe to stick straight into a comedy show. Let’s just say he is round my house a lot now. But he doesn’t use the shower. But if he did there would probably be a routine in it.

What it is at about this story that demanding a retelling on stage?
Everything. I needed someone to come into my life and shake it up. I think we look for like-minded people to surround ourselves with, but I met this guy who did everything I didn’t. He is at the gym 6am to 11pm every day. That’s all he does. He doesn’t read the news, he doesn’t know what’s going on in the world. He lifts Atlas stones. He’s religious. And he’s opened the door to a new future for me and shone a light on my past. He’s truly changed my life, and my comedy. No one is expecting an observational comedy show from Nathan Cassidy. No one is expecting any show. No one likes stand-up comedy any more. It’s a dying art from. I’m more into piano now.

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How did the show’s Brighton appearance go, & have you tweaked the show since?
I’m saying this quietly, although slightly louder now as I’m saying it to you, but it was probably my best ever Brighton in terms of audience and reaction, there is something about this show (and I think I’ve earned the right to say this as I’ve had done 10 years of shows now) that seems to be connecting with people. I knew there was something different about it before I performed it, but one of the things I hadn’t considered is from a few people I’ve heard it’s incredibly uplifting. That would be a great legacy for this show when it’s done – to see a whole crowd, and that’s 100% of the crowd, even at my best in the past I’ve probably split the crowd 95/5! To see a whole crowd moved and uplifted as I have done while performing this show is very special. But I’ve also been in the game long enough to not get too ahead of myself, I know from experience that shows that appear great can change when they get into different spaces and in front of different audiences, but I’m more confident with this show than I’ve been about any other. You can tell that by the way I’m shouting about it a bit more – if you’ve never seen me, or you’ve seen me before, just come!!

What are the fundamental differences between the Brighton & the Edinburgh Fringes?
If you want, you can do the Brighton Fringe without seeing anyone else in the industry. Which I’m not saying for one second is absolutely brilliant, but I guess whatever you do you in life can you surround yourself with people who think your job is the most important thing in the world. Sometimes you need people around you that not only are not in your world, but don’t give a damn about anything in your world. And that can open your eyes to what’s important in life, and the direction you want to go in next. None of what I’m doing in comedy is important, however very, very funny it is. There’s a much bigger picture for me now, and this big, strong man has shown me the light. And there are beaches in Brighton that aren’t freezing. And you don’t go bankrupt.

What does the future hold for Observational after the Fringe?
This was always supposed to be a work in progress, just a week in Edinburgh so I can tour it for a year after that and do a full run next year. I usually get bored with shows quite quickly but as I say I think this one has legs, and I’m hoping the great audience reactions I’ve been getting continue and this becomes successful enough that I can tour it for quite a while, and reach out to new audiences. I’ve got a lot of plans for next year, and I’m very busy with a new podcast I’m doing with http://www.podpeopleproductions.co.uk called Psycomedy (psycomedy.co.uk) about the Psychology of stand-up comedy (I studied Psychology at University) which we are live launching at the Fringe this year (23rd Aug at the Free Sisters 17:45 with very special guest!) – but I’m hoping that the audiences reaction allows me to take this show into new spaces and new Fringes next year. It was always the aim with this show to tour it globally, and I’ve already had some interest from Asia and America so the dream may turn into a reality. If I’ve learned one thing from writing this show and the last year in general, it’s that out of the darkness comes light, never stop believing in magic.

Photography: Andy Hollingworth


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Observational

The City Cafe

Aug 18-25 (17:15)

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www.nathancassidy.com/al

Meet The Team

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The 2019 Edinburgh Fringe is fast approaching, & the Mumble reviewers are sharpening their pencils & getting their hair-dos done in eager anticipation. But just who are the people behind the words? Are these scintillating connoisseurs of culture really real? The answer is a big & happy yes!


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Steven Vickers

Steven Vickers is an experienced critic as well as being an artist in his own right. He has previously written for the Trigger and Sun Zoom Spark national music magazines and has performed solo and with bands all over the UK and beyond. A prolific composer and producer he has recorded 24 self produced Albums under the names of Victor Pope, Oliver Christ and Mid Life Krysis as well as writing 2 as yet to be published novels. He was born in Middlesbrough, North East England but currently resides in Leith where he believes the future of all things creative resides with him. Special subjects – Music, Cinema, Comedy


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James Nixon

James Nixon is a PhD graduate who looked at the relation between American politics and political comedy in the Obama era. He has a particular interest in forms of cultural communication within categories such as stand-up, film and television, and how these communicate and subvert cultural, social and political norms. Chapters of his Masters and PhD research have been published by Penn State University and Illinois State University.


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Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams is of British-Grenadian heritage and been living in Edinburgh since 2011. She runs Caribbean cultural events, Black History Walking Tours of Edinburgh and educational workshops in Scottish schools. Her first degree was in Psychology and African and Asian Studies and she’s currently studying for an MA in Arts, Festival and Cultural Management. When not penning her own creations, Lisa likes to fangirl her favourite authors at literary festivals. You can follow her on Twitter @edincarib and Instagram @caribscot


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Ian Pepper

Ian Pepper lives in Bramley, Leeds with his family. He works in the voluntary sector and in his free times likes to make art and write songs. He enjoys various kinds of music though his favourites are psychedelia, punk and folk. Green issues are important to Ian and he is involved in local activist groups and has run fundraising events for them involving local musicians and artists. Ian enjoys the theatre and the way it brings different art forms such as design, storytelling and music together. He favours theatre which tries to take the audience somewhere unexpected and plays with the form but he equally enjoys a classic bit of drama too. You can see some of Ian’s work at ‘Ian Pepper Arts’ on Facebook.


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Damo

The Mumble’s editor-in-chief likes to think of himself as a poet of some nuance. Starting life in Burnley, Lancashire, & finding himself living in Edinburgh in his 30s, Damo set up the Mumble up to further his artistic education & to keep the words flowing – albeit in prose. Six years into his Parnassian pilgrimage he’s gathered a team of crack culture vultures to share the bounty. He enjoys all of the Mumbles – Comedy, Art, Theatre, Opera, Cirque, Festivals, Words & especially Musicals, which often make him cry.


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Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Divine is a multi-talented explorer of all things artistic and spiritual. A gifted Clairvoyant, Spiritual Healer, Musician, Writer and Performance Poet and Dancer. Arriving at The Edinburgh Fringe in 1995 to perform Clairvoyance at the Citrus Club, he fell in love with Edinburgh and made it his home. In 1996 he became the Spiegel Tent’s resident Clairvoyant and Spiritual Healer. A relationship that would last ten years, introducing him to some of the best performance art on the planet. In 2000 he joined the Spiegel Crew on their maiden voyage to the Adelaide Fringe where he became instrumental in the creation of Spiegel’s “Garden Of Unearthly Delights.”

Working with, spiritually guiding and supporting Fringe performers both in Adelaide and Edinburgh for two decades, it would be a natural progression to become a performance art reviewer for the world famous Blog “The Mumble.” When one is a performance artist and its rich tapestry has influenced ones life path so, being able to expand upon thespian pursuits and having the opportunity to witness the vast array of artistic merit for free, write an appraisal for, get it published and get paid for the privilege. Oh Aye 5 Stars all round. Its a win win, for Divine and the Artists he reviews.


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Raymondo Speedie

Raymondo Speedie is a happy go lucky guy who embraces all that life throws at him. Good or bad, he maintains a positive outlook on life. He loves to write, act, travel, dance, read, and pay it forward to those around him or to those whom he meets on his daily journey through life. Accept and be content is his out look on life and why not, he says, being convinced we create our own happiness and joy and therefore can share it with others. Hence being a reviewer.


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Paul Thompson (right)

Paul Thompson was born in 1950 near Bristol. His family moved about a lot, so he was brought up in the NW of England; but in 1968 was one of the original skinheads, down in South East London, where he tried (and failed) to start a skinhead fanzine. That ran for about nine months in the pages of International Times, and then folded. After that, to relieve the utter boredom of a civil service career, he wrote occasionally for the Liverpool rock zine ‘Merseysound’ (yes, still moving about!) and for scifi fanzine ‘Yellow Dwarf’. For a decade or so he was a semi-pro cartoonist, contributing monthly strips to radio magazines. At some time in the new millennium, having had enough of the civil service, he retired, set up a literary agency, and also became a mature student. Regarding the latter, he’s about to start a PhD, delving into the portrayal of masculinity in 1950s and 60s lesbian-themed pulp novels. For the Mumble he has tackled just about everything from rock gigs to orchestral concerts, and from stand-up to Shakespeare, but is most visible at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The accompanying picture shows Paul encountering DJ and musician Don Letts.


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Lucy Davidson

Lucy Davidson is a 21 year old English Literature graduate from Edinburgh University. In the autumn, she will be moving to London to pursue a masters degree in theatre directing at drama school. She particularly enjoys reviewing new writing, immersive and site-specific work, physical theatre and contemporary Shakespearean adaptations. She is also more than excited about diversifying The Mumble by reviewing work in The Big Smoke!


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Michael Becci

Michael has recently been called a “Renaissance Man” by friends, as he has partaken in many creative endeavours. He splits time between Europe and the USA, as the law dictates. He spent his formative years travelling thousands of miles though North America on a bicycle, sleeping in bushes and eating out of waste bins. Wood sculpture has fascinated Michael for many years, and he has recently completed a bench. He has often traversed great expanses in order to cat sit. Michael is formally trained in creative writing from a lower-mid level university. He enjoys the collaborative nature of reviewing for the Mumble. Getting to experience performance arts and creating a review to help attract others to do the same, fulfils Michael’s desire to see earth become a better place.


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Teri Welsh

Teri Welsh is a former spacecraft engineer, having worked for Scisys on ESA contracts for the Rover Mars mission. Her PhD research was undertaken at Glasgow University, Stanford University and NASA Ames in California, where she wrote a number of scientific papers on Spacecraft Robotics. Disillusioned with the private sector rat race, she abandoned her career to follow a holistic life as a traveller and writer, and set up a fair trade clothing/craft business working with disadvantaged communities in the developing world. In her free time she enjoys DJing at various gigs and festivals both here in Scotland and overseas, and can often be found dancing in a muddy field with a warm can of Strongbow.


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Mark Mackenzie

Mark gained a Master of Theology from St Andrews in 1992, before it was overrun with American heiresses looking to snag a prince. He has had many occupations, including farm-working, teaching, cleaning busses and editing books. He currently lives and works in Perth, with Archie, a rescue dog who adopted him. They like to go hillwalking, getting wet, and rambling in the park, where they terrorise other dog owners. Mark likes theatre, classic literature and all sorts of music. Except grime.


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Daniel Donnolly

Being part of the Mumble team has taken Daniel on many courses, reviewing everything from comedy to tragedy in the theatre, to covering operas and rock music. His increased appreciation has come from reviewing Music and theatre especially. When he was put in the middle of Edinburgh’s Princes Street and told to go see some Fringe shows and write about how he felt about them, he discovered the journey made between production team, audience and the reviewer can be a handsomely rewarding thing to do. Hr is excited at the future of this kind of writing both for himself and for The Mumble. He has been set alight by performances and has divulged with great reverence scripts and dialogues, each time with a feeling that he was covering this better or that… the opportunity for writing has always been a welcome one, and one that will continue as part of his life. Music and theatre just seems to hit a certain spot in me as to offer me relish in what he does.


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Catherine Eunson

Originally from Orkney, Catherine has lived in Huntly, Stirling, Edinburgh, Devon, London, Glasgow and Benbecula, where her family all lived for 20 years until 2016. She worked first as a music therapist and then in arts and education, with various community groups and as an event promoter. A lapsed cellist, she wrote and recorded music for Pauline Prior-Pitt’s ‘North Uist Sea Poems.’ Catherine has also had poetry published in various publications.


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Steve Bromley

Steve is a creative writing graduate, who has unexpectedly found himself neck deep in the world of social housing. As a child, he wanted to be a frog, which is not necessarily the direction taken by most fairy tales and he’s never fully recovered from the disappointment of discovering that his amphibian goal could never be achieved. He now lives in Leeds with his sprawling extended family and fills his days with a heady (or possibly headless) mixture of experimental music, trashy horror films, comic books and classic literature. In summary, Steve is pretty undiscerning. He’s at his most comfortable astride the dizzying chasm of high and low brow, and is this is where his imagination burns at its brightest. Steve has released music through an assortment of netlabels from Edinburgh’s very own Bearsuit Records to the Netherlands based Rack and Ruin Records, having matured musically at the height of internet based file sharing bands. Over the years, he’s  also written over enthusiastically about music for a variety of fanzines and websites. He now bothers the West Yorkshire music scene in the form of Gnomefoam. West Yorkshire is still working out how to put him back into his box. He’s also still working on his unwritten masterpiece.


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Mark Parker

Code name: Big Weegie Mark
Strengths: Flagpoles, painting ceilings and being funny as fuck! Great under pressure!
Weaknesses: Can’t stand a bully, loves everyone, a bit naive, believes any old shite, pish at deadlines.
Best Mumble moment to date: Rag-dolling Nina Contie last year in her monkey suit, I had her mid-air one handed and no I was not part of the show. I hate a bully – she is one – but hopefully she has learned don’t pick a fight up here unless you are sure you can finish it!
Funniest Mumble Moment: Louise Redknapp reading my review of her show while getting a massage from my ladypal at some posh hotel, and me texting my ladypal asking for a threesome… still waiting on my answer Lou!
Loves: Dogs rule… my family reading out my reviews at birthday dinners/parties (proud as punch)… helping out whenever the Weegie is needed… Theatre, Comedy, Dance, Techno… taking someone to their first show or play or comedy and telling the story about how their face lit up and how they absolutely loved it!
Philosophy: Kill them with kindness,  love yourself as no one else is going to and this shit’s a marathon not a sprint. If you can spread some love along the way there is room for you on my cloud.


THE EDINBURGH FRINGE 2019

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An Interview with Dom Mackie

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Dom Mackie is a young, storytelling master of therapeutic comedy…


When did you first realise you were funny?
To be honest, I still don’t see myself as funny, I guess the fact other people laugh at what I say is a bonus. Suppose the first gig where I got an applause break was when I first realised, I was funny, cause at least I was so funny the audience wasted their energy putting two hands together for it.

How did you get into stand-up?
When I was in my first year at university, I attended the comedy society and did some improv there. One of the members liked what they saw and invited me to an open mic night in the city, I’ve never looked back since.

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As a post-millennial, do you find that comedy is changing, is the material of older comics still relevant?
It is always good to keep up with the times as the more relatable your material is towards younger audiences, the better presence you have on social media (presence=promotion). I feel society is very PC nowadays so you do have to be very careful with what you say, but it depends if you are actually that bothered with what people think, which I’m not.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Oh this is easy! Chilling on the sofa, watching Netflix, not being bothered if you accidentally fall asleep when watching… bliss.

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If your comedy style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Wow, from an easy question to a challenging one! I’d say the key ingredients are energy, storytelling and audience chatter, I do all three in my set and if I don’t, then clearly something is up with me that day.

Can you tell us about the show?
It is called “Poor Life Choices”, it is a therapeutic experience for the audience, where I not only go over the stupid decisions in my life, but the audience reveal stories about their lives. By the end, we feel like a community but it’s a hilarious community at the same time.

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You’ve been touring ‘Poor Life Choices’ across the world for quite a wee while now. How has the show evolved in that time?
From doing previews in pubs in Cambridge to worldwide shows has been an incredibly quick journey. I find it hard to even process how quick its been. It started with a 35-minute TED talk pretty much now, but now it involves the audience and it has become a solid hour long stand up show with good reviews.

How did it go down in America?
I am always concerned when taking my stand up outside the UK due to the different reactions I could get from it. I was beyond overjoyed by the different reactions I got from outside the UK and I am returning to America in July, I can’t wait to perform there.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets…
Do you like stupid stories? Do you like to watch someone suffer? Do you like comedy? Then come and see ‘Poor Life Choices’, the sell out show where sad times lead to good fortunes.


Poor Life Choices

The Caxton Arms

May 28 & 29 

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www.dommackie.co.uk

An Interview with Samantha Pressdee

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The ultimate Love Muffin is flying down to Brighton…


Hello Samantha, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I am from and reside in the Black Country. It’s a real place, but it’s like purgatory. A lot of people get stuck there. My town Walsall is actually the 4th most deprived area in England according to our local paper. It’s called the Black Country as there used to be a lot of factories there, the smoke from the factories would turn the sky black. The factories have mostly gone now but there’s still plenty of smoke, from spliffs and cracks pipes. There’s no place like home!

You have been described as an ‘anarcha-feminist,’which seems an unusual field from which to draw comedy. Is it a rich field to harvest?
I think confrontation can create comedy, or just enemies. Confrontation with bare breasts is very funny, but also very serious. We are serious comedians. I was actually a comedian before I became an anarcha-feminist, before I was just ‘a feminist’ but I had to separate myself from the ones who hate men and sex positive women. Anarchy is about challenging hierarchy, feminism is about challenging patriarchy. So it makes sense that feminism shouldn’t turn into a matriarchy. We need equal ground!

What is it about performing live you love the most?
The warm fuzzy feeling you get from intimately connecting with an audience. You can’t get that soul connection through a plasma screen. Last night I got both kisses and cuddles from my audience on their way out. That is way better than a thumbs up on Youtube.

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Have your two stints at the Edinburgh Fringe toughened you up as a comedian?
There’s been 3 stints and yes. The first show was a baptism of fire. Most people duck under the radar for about 5 years then pop up with their debut hour. I did my first hour ‘Consume Shit & Die’ less than 2 years into comedy. I was in a nightclub called Espionage at 10.30pm trying to get drunk people to join the revolution! I had so much to say and felt it was urgent so there was no way I was gonna faff around for 5 years like some of my peers recommended. I needed a platform, where else could I express my truth without ending up back in the nuthouse? The show was not bad and definitely not good but I don’t regret it. Had I not done the full run with an hour there is no way I would have had the guts or the know how to produce Sextremist the following year. This is now my fifth year in comedy and 4th hour. I believe by industry standards, this is the year I am supposed to quit. The rules are you write a five year business plan, but fuck the rules! Anyway, just in the nick of time my work has become socially acceptable. I actually have a regular paid gig in telly, Psychic Today not 8 Out of 10 Cats but I’m making my own way. It’s comforting that my audience have seen me transform from an ugly duckling into a phoenix.

What is your ideal Sunday?
Sleep till I wake up, don’t bother getting dressed. Read a book in bed and then order a curry for breakfast at 4pm. I might then watch a comedy on Netflix or listen to a podcast. I’m mostly tearing around the country in pursuit of mischief, magic and mirth so it’s nice to just have one day to do nothing.

You are bringing Covered to the Brighton Fringe, can you tell us about it?
It’s a personal story that starts and ends with the police. Previewing ahead of my Edinburgh Fringe launch. This show is about trying to be taken seriously, while also trying to be a comedian. I know this will really shock people but I am a certified lunatic. I talk about trying to get my needs covered after a severe mental breakdown 5 years ago. Where do you go when all the welfare services have been cut and many people are scared to discuss mental health issues? Well I went to comedy, straight out of a mental hospital. I was encouraged by a Guardian article published at that time stating comedians are the most likely profession to be diagnosed with psychotic traits. Comedy is my home, but some see me as a pesky squatter. I’ve managed to resist the bailiffs so far but this is not the case for everyone. The show talks about the welfare state, social housing and the need for belonging. It’s seriously funny.

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What do you think of Brighton as a city?
Brighton is badass. I called for a Free The Nipple rally in Brighton 2016, loads of people came and we made international headlines. After a day of topless marching along the promenade and sunbathing, some of the activists came to my preview of Sextremist again joining me in topless solidarity. My mom came too, we both slept in my van and used the co-op toilets to have a wash. True anarchy! I love the seaside and brighton rock. It’s a wonderful place I have many happy memories in Brighton. Only one bad memory. It’s the location where I got sectioned early in 2014, the police man seemed genuinely upset they’d had to put me in a cell while I was in psychosis because there were no beds available on the NHS. When I asked him through the flap “Where am I?” He had tears in his eyes. More about that in my new show Covered.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to someone in the street, what do you say?
It’s a story of resilience promoting compassion over schadenfreude. Chronicling how people are struggling to get their mental health needs met in austerity Britain. Perfect subject for comedy because the system is a joke!


Covered

Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant

May 3-4 / June 1-2

The Carnal Magic of Scott Agnew’s “Work in Progress”

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Glasgow Comedy Festival
March 30th, 2019

Material: five-stars  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: five-stars  


Having seen Agnew headlining the fellow Glasgow Comedy Festival show Commissioned earlier that same week, I was delighted to be able to get tickets to his “Work in Progress” show at the State Bar. Throughout an hour of Agnew exploring the minutiae of Grindr dates and gay male culture in Glasgow, I was really impressed with the dynamism Agnew brought to the stage, and it reminded me why he is so highly-rated within the Scottish stand-up circuit.

Much like his performance that I covered in my review of Commissioned, as he balanced precariously on the tiny stool in the venue room of the State Bar, Agnew launched into a filthily funny take on life as a HIV-positive, self-described “poof” living and dating in Glasgow. Standing at an impressive six-foot, 5-inches with a heavy Glaswegian accent, Agnew’s insights into these areas of gay male culture were mesmerising, from his graphic description of getting laid in city centre alleyways, to chasing hook-ups on online dating apps. In one brilliant segment, he described how, after being enticed by a particularly impressive dick pic on Grinder, he took a taxi to sixty miles away in the hope of a hook-up, before revealing the inevitable, and absolutely hilarious comedown that followed.

Agnew took command of the room as he led the audience through these hilarious tales in revolting, delicious detail. His use of hand gestures was a clever element of his performance, moving his fingers cheekily like a sloppy pianist as he detailed the fleshly delights of an alley-way next to McDonalds. I couldn’t help but feel that some sections of the audience were a little taken aback by his openness, but I found the unabashed nature of his stories absolutely enchanting, and of course hysterical. Very quickly into his performance, I couldn’t help but feel like a character in some kind of corrupted fairy tale, in which I was being effortlessly transported to the back-alleys and sex parties of Central Scotland, a demonstration of Agnew’s story-telling chops.

As a comic who has spoken publicly about his own struggles with mental health and how this relates to his identity as a gay man, I felt that this is where the real magic of his stand-up lay. While managing to avoid leading the show into overt political or social commentary, the intensely honest nature of Agnew’s stand-up nonetheless felt subversive. Without being on the nose about it, his material at times suggested to me that he was clearly not just wanting to gain laughs out of his past sexual escapades, but intended to play a part in normalising his own personal experiences and struggles as a gay man to wider audiences by making a contribution to the incremental, progressive cultural and social transformations that stand-up plays a significant part in promoting. Overall, I found it to be easily one of the most polished and funny stand-up shows I’ve seen in years. As expected of a work in progress, the junctures between his bits were a little inelegant at times, but his commanding, confident style more than compensated for this between segues. Twenty minutes into the show, I genuinely did not want Agnew to get off the stage.

At one point in his performance, Agnew referenced the Billy Connolly murals that look over certain streets of Glasgow. Watching him, I couldn’t help but be reminded of just how impressively Connolly has transformed the nature of British stand-up into story-based monologues, and how comics such as Agnew have adopted and continued this lineage in the modern circuit. It also reminded me, like the Big Yin pioneered decades ago, how stand-up works best when it hits all the right notes between raw, painful honesty, balanced social and political exposition, pristine delivery, and of course, being fucking hysterical, a rare, comic stratagem. Agnew’s work is a beautiful testament to this; filthy without being derogatory, self-deprecating but not punitive, hedonistic but ethical. While at this point it’s a work in progress, I’m fascinated to see how Agnew transforms this material into an even more polished set. Having seen what he has to offer already however, I don’t doubt that it will be one of the best comic performances of any upcoming venue.

James Nixon

five-stars