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

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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.

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

Commissioned

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Glasgow Comedy Festival
March 27th, 2019


As one of the Glasgow Comedy Festival performances, I was really impressed with the quality of Commissioned and the range of comics, poets and artists on hand. Based around the theme of holidays, each artist was given two weeks to prepare their material for the show. Performed within the basement room of the State Bar, the venue really suited the intimacy of the show, and made for a friendly, participative energy between the acts and the audience.

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Elaine Malcolmson

The warm, communal liveliness of Commissioned was mastered by the show’s host, Elaine Malcolmson, jumping with ease between crowdwork over terrible holidays, to playfully abusing a Brexiteer sitting in the front row. She also acknowledged the initially disorganised feel to the show, with some of the comics who were billed not turning up on the night. Malcolmson followed this with a brilliant bit on some of the worst excuses she has ever been given for comic no-shows (“my girlfriend cut her finger”). For an event that was also slightly hindered by having its show-time wrongly listed online, Malcolmson did a fantastic job as host.

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Cat Hepburn

As one of the first acts, spoken word artist Cat Hepburn gave an excellent, early dynamism to the show by performing a set based around the worst experiences her female friends had encountered while on holiday with their ex-boyfriends. As a naturally likeable performer, she helped the audience quickly settle into the show, and was well-received. This was followed by a spoken word performance by Kevin P. Gilday, who told a hilarious story explaining why people with anxiety, such as himself, really shouldn’t travel to the forests of Ghana. His piece about trying to fend off poisonous snakes while travelling through African villages filled with machete-carrying inhabitants was brilliant.

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Sian Bevin

Closing the first half of the show, Sian Bevin shone as one of the show’s most impressive performers. Her observations on the privileged tourists she encountered on her travels in India stood out as one of the night’s sharpest moments, and her very personable, slightly awkward style worked really well with her material. The second half of the show continued with a very funny, neurotic animated comedy by EM. Steven Dick followed with a clever video short on his recent “holiday” to Aberdeen, dotted with misery inducing shots of the town and his Megabus journey. Timing between the divergent acts was one of the show’s biggest strengths, and a testament to Malcolmson’s excellent hosting.

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Scott Agnew

Scott Agnew delivered a clever finale to the show, and easily stood out as Commissioned’s best act of the night. Having seen Agnew numerous times at the Stand, the indomitable, raw liveliness he brought to the stage reinforced why he is considered to be one of Glasgow’s strongest professional comics, weaving cleverly between reminiscences on shite holidays and other pieces. His domineering stature accentuated his material, where Agnew, seated awkwardly on a small stool, gulped portions of his beer between main punchlines and tags. Seeing him in action again was a real delight, and delivered a perfect finish to an already excellent and diverse show.

Overall, I was impressed with Commissioned, and thought it made an excellent contribution to the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Ambitious in its structure, it struck the right chord between experimentation and expertise, and ensured a real diversity to the structure of its line-up that others show haven’t done quite as well. Now celebrating its seventh year in the scene, Commisioned’s performance at the 2019 Glasgow Comedy Festival was a real delight to watch, and I’m looking forward to future contributions.

James Nixon

An Interview with Sonia Aste


Sonia Aste is coming back to Brighton with a whole new comedy menu…


Hello Sonia, so where ya from and where ya at, geographically speaking?
Sonia: Like my show’s title: I’m Made in Spain! And to prepare audiences for my show – I ordered a SPANISH SUMMER so everyone can feel like a true local.

When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
Sonia: My mom says that as a new born people laughed because I looked like a grumpy old man. I also made these mumbling complaining noises that reminded her of my uncle Antonio … who was (and still is!) a grumpy old man. So making people laugh started pretty early I guess.

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How did you get into Comedy?
Sonia: My grandparents’ house was always full of laughter. Their philosophy was ‘When life laughs at you … you laugh right back! Because when the going gets tough … laughter can keep you going’. A wonderful lesson which I hold dear in my heart.

What is your ideal Sunday afternoon?
Sonia: After Saturday’s FIESTA –Sunday SIESTA!

As a Spaniard living in Britain, what do you think of the ongoing Brexit proceedings?
Sonia: Like the Spanish festival: LA TOMATINA, (metaphorical) tomato throwing and complete confusion.

What are the differences between the Spanish & the British senses of humour?
Sonia: Humour is a little different, but luckily there’s no difference between a ‘British laugh and Spanish laugh’, because laughter is our one universal language.

What does Sonia Aste do when she’s not being funny?
Sonia: Worry about not being funny.

You are bringing MADE IN SPAIN to the Brighton Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Sonia: With Spain being one of the top destination for British tourists, my show shines a light into our cultural differences and what it means to be ‘Made in Spain’. It’s a fast paced show based on a ‘Tapas Menu’, and the audience chooses what they want to order. I wanted to cater to all comedy tastes and like a good Spanish meal, provide a space to share in the fun and laughter.

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You say your show will be based around a tapas menu … what would you recommend?
Sonia: The menu will change daily, making every show different – but I’d definitely recommend ‘Spanish Song Salad’ and ‘Mum’s Mash’. We will have daily specials too!

Have you tweaked the show since your successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe?
Sonia: YES! This is part two – brand new flavours while keeping the old favourites in the menu of laughs.


Made In Spain 2

Duke of Wellington

May 5, 7, 18, 25 (various times)

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www.soniaaste.com

An Evening with Rick Molland

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As you approach the Colosseum along the Via Labicana in Rome, one encounters a series of maps of the progression of the Roman Empire. The first one of these was just a dot on the map where Rome is, then the second shows its early expansion into the surrounding territories of Latina & Veii. This is exactly what is happening with Edinburgh’s Monkey Barrel Comedy, which has expanded from its tenancy at the Beehive on the Grassmarket, to opening its very own venue on Blair Street, right next to the City Cafe. Whereas The Stand is quite tricky to get to really, Monkey Barrel has placed itself like a knife at the jugular of a good night out, ready to slit our throats & let the laughter pour out until we lie helpless in fits on the floor.

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It was The Mumble’s sincere pleasure to be invited by chief monkey himself, Rick Molland, the guy whose been working this particular comedy seam in Edinburgh for a wee while now, having complete faith in his mining abilities, & has now struck gold! A minor-owner in Monkey Barrel, he would be MC-ing a well-balanced & eclectic thrill-ride for a yet another sold-out audience.

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Studying the room…

The Monkey Barrel’s main room  – & its rows of old cinema seats – is directly accessible from the street, which leads to an open-entry bar where a TV shows whats going on in the main room. As we were guests, we found ourselves sat on the cusp between the two, which gave as an intriguing insight into what comedians are doing before their sets – basically studying the room.

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Vladamir MacTavish

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We witnessed giddy opener Gareth Waugh, the drollosaur philanthropy of weegie-snarling Vladamir MacTavish; the bounce-a-along comedy bombast of the liltingly Welsh ‘I put the Jew in Judo‘ Bennett Aaron, & the quirky edginess of New Zealander, Sully O’Sullivan. Before, after, & inbetween, Rick deliver’d a pitch-perfect masterclass in working a room. My lovely wife, who escorted me on the night out, declared Rick to be ‘fuckin’ brilliant.’ He is a proper conductor of electrical energy into the room, a machine of perpetual comedy motion! Imagine a chef barking orders in a busy kitchen & you get somewhere near the vibe that Rick creates – but of course it is all quite hilarious. Sometimes you don’t even know why you’re laughing, but you’re doing it anyway – now that’s comedy genius!

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Sully O’Sullivan

After Sully had finished his smashing, headlining set, we hooked up with Rick for the wee walk along the frolic-infested Cowgate to the Grassmarket, back towards the Monkey Barrel’s spiritual home at the Beehive. Rick had invited us to his latest contribution to Edinburgh’s love of comedy – a late-night shindig in the Beehive’s ‘Attic.’ I mean, during the Fringe there’s comedy on until daft o’clock every night, so there’s deffinitely a market for such a slot. It cannot be denied that people laugh harder & longer & louder the more pissed they get – & the difference between the slightly sober crowd who Rick opened his night to at eight, & the one who he was winding things up to at 00:30 was markedly different.

On our walk to the Beehive, I asked Rick a few questions about how things were progressing since our last chat, in May 2017.


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Hows 2019 looking for the Scottish Comedy Festival at the Fringe?
Rick: The Scottish Comedy Festival Line-up for 2019 is looking stronger than ever, we’ve got SCF favourites like Raymond Mearns and Gary Little returning, along with some amazing new faces like the award winning Rahul Kohli and I’m particular looking forward Gav Webster bringing his cult podcast The Comedy Results to us this year. This year we’ve expanded our scope a little bit. We’ve added Nightcap as second venue, so we’re just finalising the last couple of spots, we plan to announce the full SCF line-up in next couple of weeks.

When did you decide to start late night comedy at the Beehive, & how’s it going
Rick: The Innis & Gunn Comedy Attic is the newest addition to the Scottish Comedy Circuit. We’re very much in our infancy, as we’re just four weeks old. The show is fucking crazy. Drunk acts and drunker audience members are a hell of a mix. Why do a late night gig? Basically, I fell in love with stand-up at late night Edinburgh Fringe gigs like Late & Live and Spank. These are the gigs that are the heart and soul of the festival. There’s never really been an attempt to see if something like that can exist outside of the fringe, it’s Punk Rock Comedy, a little bit edgier, anything goes but really fucking fun. We’re a month in and seems to be working, which is as much I could hope for. What Happens in the Attic, Stays in the Attic!

What is it about Edinburgh that makes it such a beacon for comedians & fans alike?
Rick: Edinburgh is amazing city, it’s relaxed, chilled and creative as hell. Comedy wise the fringe plays a big part in the reason it’s a beacon. But you can’t over look how strong the circuit is right now in Edinburgh, There’s the amazing Monkey Barrel Comedy, The Stand, Gilded Balloon and then there’s my crazy little gig in The Attic. It means that audiences can go an see a variety of top acts and have choices on the type of nights they want.


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Harry Garrison

Rick was soon back on stage weaving his magic – it was a bit crazy actually; Sully opened, with Gareth Waugh in the middle, & guitar-wielding Harry Garrison to finish. The crowd was banterery and responsive & the whole near sold-out gig was really interactive. It was like the Monkey Barrel gig but turned up to 13. Really good fun. An audience with no limits, including quite a lot of banter with a nurse about the time she found a pen, a crisp packet and a dead bird in an old woman’s vagina! You had to be there, & I recommend that you do. Nice one Rick & keep up the good work!

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LINKS

www.thecomedyattic.co.uk

www.monkeybarrelcomedy.com

www.scottishcomedyfestival.com

An Interview with Nathan Cassidy

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Perennially prolific, the terrific Nathan Cassidy has a brand new show for 2019…


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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

Photography: Andy Hollingworth


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Observational

Caroline of Brunswick

May 4-6 (15:15) PWYW

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www.nathancassidy.com/al