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.
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.
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).
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.
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.