An Interview with Samantha Presdee

Samantha Pressdee_0017b_photo by steve ullathorne.jpgHello 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!

Who are your comedy idols?
I really love Russell Brand, Bill Hicks, Alfie Brown, Sarah Pascoe & Fern Brady. They all seem to be saying something interesting. I came to Edinburgh 4 years ago as an Actress and I saw Alfie, Rosie Wilby and Mark Thomas. They inspired me to try comedy. I see it as a platform for the truth. George Orwell said “Every joke is a tiny revolution.” I’m all about social change and am drawn to comics who have compassion for people. It was a shock to learn there are so many narcissists in this industry. I guess we all have to be a little bit vain to get up on stage and tell strangers about ourselves. I tend to avoid comics that talk ONLY about themselves though. They are energy vampires!

You’ve been washed up on a desert island with a solar-powered DVD player & three films. Which would they be?
Almost Famous, it’s my favourite ever film, I never get bored of it. It is so truthful and I love the characters. It’s about being a fan. Anyone that’s ever loved a band or has a hero could relate. I would need to laugh so Russell Brand’s Messiah Complex, that is one of the few stand up shows I can watch again and again. It’s interesting as well as funny and I notice different details every time I watch it. Finally a classic epic Gone with the Wind. The strength of Scarlett O’hara would keep me from topping myself whilst stranded. Tomorrow is another day!

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.

In the past you have featured in national papers and magazines as a glamour model. It seems quite a leap from there to an socially-agitating, feminist comedienne. Can you describe the journey?
I come from a town where the best I could hope for with only GCSE qualifications was a career in our local ASDA. I lasted 6 months working on the tills in asda then moved to London. I did what I could to try and make a living in the entertainment industry, as drama school was too expensive. So glamour modelling was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, I didn’t do too much and wasn’t allowed to bare my nipples as I was also a member of Pineapple Cheerleaders. We would perform for kids so nipples (which used to feed the little brats) were unacceptable but my coach was cool that my arse cheeks were on the front page of Nuts magazine. Maybe this oppression is what fuels my drive to free all nipples. I would do bits of acting work as well as modelling and cheerleading and I decided I wanted to be a comic after visiting the fringe with a play in 2013.

What does Samantha Pressdee like to do when she’s not being funny?
She likes to have bubble baths, go to yoga & kick boxing. I love my anarchist friends and go visit their squats whenever I am in London. In the show I talk a lot about the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians, otherwise known as ANAL. Earlier this year they were in the press a lot occupying mansions in Belgravia, to give the homeless shelter. There are something like 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, more than enough to house all the homeless. This injustice needs to be highlighted, so thank god for ANAL. Our next big fight is against the extradition of alleged hacker Lauri Love. He is appealing in the high courts this November on the grounds that because of his Aspergers and severe depression he would be unable to cope in the US prison system and would commit suicide.

A3PosterEdFringe (1).jpgYou are bringing your show Back to Basics to the Fringe this August, can you tell us about it?
Yes, it’s about waking up to how austerity has affected our front line emergency service workers and therefore the communities that rely on those services. Particularly people with disabilities or mental health issues. After losing my Dad a few years ago the life I was trying to build in London came crashing down. I saw how short staffed the hospitals were, and lost my home in London as I couldn’t afford to pay my private landlord after all the work I’d missed caring for Dad. My husband then left after I had a mental breakdown. I ended up in a police cell because there were no beds available on the NHS. I’m talking about the importance of getting our basic needs met as a society to maintain mental health. I like the idea of an unconditional basic income and think we need more social housing. Especially in London.

Can you tell us about Tom Palmer & why you connected with him so much?
Tom Palmer was a legendary activist, anarchist and spy catcher. A true revolutionary and champion of the underdog. He dropped out of goldsmiths university to become a full time member of the occupy movement. I met him at Sweets Way Resists, the campaign against social cleansing I talk about throughout the show. He was always fighting the good fight, despite being vulnerable himself. We had both been let down by the mental health system. That mutual understanding of what it’s like to lose touch with reality and rely on a broken system to save you was probably what bonded us. He was a kindred spirit. Last year when I was in Edinburgh another comic, Jon Pearson had ganged up on me along with other comedians on twitter after I stuck some tiny #FreeTheNipple stickers on giant posters. (They easily peeled off.) Jon grassed me up to both the fringe society and Just The Tonic publicly. Tom stuck up for me sharing a video I had posted joining me in my cry “Fuck you Jon Pearson.” He wanted to come up here to help me infiltrate the comedy boys club and perform an impromptu show on Calton hill. He’d asked me for money for a bus ticket days before, I didn’t have it. I had planned to have him come stay with me in the Black Country after Edinburgh, get him under my mental health team, help him apply for his disability benefits and maybe get him into supported accommodation. Tragically, I was too late. On August 22nd I found out from a Facebook post that he had passed away. I wanted to save him but didn’t have the resources, so he fell through our disintegrating welfare safety net. My show is for him, all I can do now to honour his memory is continue our shared mission.

Can you sum up your show in a single sentence?
It’s a cry for help!

In one sentence can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August?
An enjoyable clusterfuck with multiple climaxes but also with a lot of uncomfortable prodding and fake screaming.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Samantha Pressdee
I would love to go on holiday to Greece, I’ll visit my husband who I’ve been separated from for 2 years to check we really do wanna get divorced. Then I might go to India to study Kundalini Yoga. If hubby and I decide to stay just friends I’ll probably wanna find a boyfriend. So I might try actual dating, that would be a new experience for me because I usually just pounce on them. I want to schedule more social time, I’ve spent so much time producing this show that I miss my friends. I’ll do *some* work. Back 2 Basics is scheduled in Telford and Leeds already.

You can catch Samantha at the Fringe right now…

Aug 3-27 : 48 Below (19.30)

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