An Interview with Karen Koren

That’s Fife Festival has just returned to the Kingdom in April 2017 with an eclectic programme of comedy, theatre, spoken word, magic and family entertainment. The shows will be staged at venues across the Kingdom from Saturday 1 to Friday 28 April 2016, with Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, the central Hub of the festival.   From the masters of stand up and comedy entertainment on stage, TV and radio to the UK’s most spectacular touring magic show – The Champions of Magic – to shows from Fun Box for younger kids, theatre and the spoken word, there is something to entertain every member of the family at That’s Fife. Over the weekend, The Mumble managed to catch its artistic director, Karen Koren, for a wee chat

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THE MUMBLE : Hello, Karen, so what got you into comedy in the first place?
KAREN: Its a long story – I had friends from London who were into the “alternative” comedy scene (early 80’s) – we are talking 35 years ago now! They were looking for a venue in Edinburgh as there were not enough venues doing comedy, so I found one and put them on – they attracted other comics and it grew from there.

THE MUMBLE : The Gilded Balloon has grown so big over these past three decades, are you surprised by this?
KAREN: I am very surprised by it. It has grown bigger than I could have imagined. I also instigated a lot of shows like Late’n’Live which attracted comics – as there was no late night hang out in the early days.  Now late shows are the norm during the Fringe.  The Fringe has changed and become the biggest arts festival in the world. I am only glad that I can still be a part of it and contribute with good shows.

THE MUMBLE : How has the comedy world changed since you first started out?
KAREN: There was a greater camaraderie when I first started. There weren’t too many comics and they all liked hanging out and learning from each other. The material was a little angrier in the Maggie Thatcher years, more political, its not so much now and I am pleased to say that there are much more women doing it now; there was only Jo Brand and a handful of others back then. I would say though, that comedy has changed for the better, there is more competition, which means the comics have to work harder at being good.

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THE MUMBLE : A couple of years ago, you handed over SOME of the reins to your daughter. Did you feel she as keen on comedy as you were?
KAREN: Katy and I are working along side each other at the moment and she is still learning the ropes. Katy is very keen on comedy and making the Gilded Balloon the best venue on the Fringe. She is interested and looks towards the future. She has a good eye for comic talent and is enjoying the challenge of the Festival and the tours, That’s Fife and promoting our work and performances throughout the year.

THE MUMBLE : That’s Fife has just started, can you tell us about the Festival?
KAREN: That’s Fife has lots to offer, its great to get an opportunity to have Elaine C Smith on at the opening Gala. It has been a while since she has performed at Glenrothes. Alan Davies is back with stories from bringing up his young family.  Grant Stott brings his “Tales from Behind the Mic” and the very successful Doll’s Abroad are back after a sellout at the Alhambra earlier in the year.  The Burnistoun boys are also in the programme with their new show Uncles. There is lots more with Funbox for kids, Horse McDonald in Careful and Scotland’s National Poet Liz Lochead all performing.

THE MUMBLE : What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Karen Koren?
KAREN: There is lots happening this year – but right now concentrating on getting a good programme together for this year’s Fringe. We have some exciting shows coming and there will be an announcement in a few weeks about an exciting new venue that we will be working with. We will also have a small venue all year round from September time. Watch this space!

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