An Interview with Michelle Aldridge

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Comedy brilliance is coming to Edinburgh
But only for 3 nights!


Hello Michelle, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from Michigan and so is my accent. For the past three years I’ve been living and performing in Chicago, which shares a coastline with Lake Michigan so still close to my Michigander roots.

When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
I’ve been told that my hair is funny since I was a kid. The first time I remember making someone laugh was in middle school. I was a classic nerd and figured out that if I could make people laugh then they would laugh with me and not at me. Well, hopefully they were laughing with me. People called me binder girl so I made up a song about how much my binder meant to me. It wasn’t really a joke though because I did love that Lisa Frank binder. Truth in comedy I guess!

Which comedians have inspired you; both old skool & contemporary?
Maria Bamford is my everything! I am inspired by her so much. The way she constructs her jokes, how she talks about mental health, and her voice (both her literal voice and comedic voice) really spoke to me, made me laugh, and feel less alone. I also love Aparna Nancherla! Her delivery is so perfect and she tackles anxiety in a way that is so relatable and so so funny! Rachel Bloom is another comedian I’m obsessed with! Her musical comedy is so smart and raw and catchy! Old school comedians I love are Lucille Ball and Gilda Radnor’s physical and vocal styles. Also all of my friends in Chicago, Tokyo, and DC!

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Can you tell us about the comedy scene in Chicago?
The Chicago comedy scene is incredible! I truly believe it is one of the best comedy scenes in the entire world! There are so many funny people in Chicago and I’m constantly blown away by everyone’s talent and work ethic. Chicago is home to legendary sketch and improv theaters like Second City, iO, and Annoyance and also amazing independent shows and theaters like the Crowd, Revival, Sh*thole, Hideout, and so many more! There is also an incredible stand-up scene. There is always somewhere you can perform every night of the week or you can rent your own space, do house shows, and do your own thing! There is so much talent in Chicago and so many shows to recommend! Matt Damon Improv, Dreamboat, Preach, 3Peat, and Midnight in Miami are shows you have to see if you come to Chicago! I hope comedy spaces continue to become more inclusive and lift up a diverse range of voices. What’s nice about Chicago is that while there are professional opportunities it’s less intense than LA or New York. You get a really good mix of people who are professional, but who also just love performing, making people laugh, and expressing themselves. I started off in DC and Tokyo, which have much smaller scenes. In the beginning I was overwhelmed by how large the Chicago comedy scene was, but there’s so many opportunities to learn and grow in this city. Also there’s deep dish pizza!

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Eating cheesy potatoes by a lake at sunset with some good friends having a good laugh. Also reading a book alone after. Love my introvert time too!

What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
I’m someone who likes to write on their feet at open mics, improv shows, and riffing with friends. It helps me not overthink things and to get an audience’s immediate feedback. I’ll record my sets, write them down, rework the bits, and then repeat the process. With the 30-Year-Old Virgo I had a lot of help from my director, dramaturge, and creative collaborators. They really pushed me to dig deeper, take risks, and find new perspectives on my material. I love collaborating on projects because it gets you out of your head and makes it a labor of love from multiple people. We could all connect with each other about our lives inspired by themes in the show and that’s ultimately what the goal of the show was for me.

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You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I hope to bring as much to the Fringe as it gave to me eight years ago. This whole experience has been a dream come true! I came to the Fringe for the first time in 2011 I had no idea what improv was and had never performed comedy before. I saw the improvised musical Showstoppers and was instantly hooked! I took improv classes, studied sketch comedy, and did as much stand up as a could. It changed my whole life! I remember writing in my journal in 2011 that I would perform at the Fringe one day and even though I don’t get to do the full run because of financial reasons I am so excited to finally make this dream a reality! I hope it goes well and that next year I can bring the show back for a full run. 2020 baby! So that was a long way of saying I’ll be bringing Chicago-style sketch and stand-up comedy plus a Midwestern earnestness to the Fringe!

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Are you tweaking the show for a largely British audience, or is there a universality to your material?
I have a lot of bits about potatoes, but luckily the UK and Midwest both love potatoes so I’m keeping all of the potato bits in the show. There is a universality to the show, other than potatoes. It’s all about love, labels, and lack of intimacy. It opens up a conversation about our relationship to physical intimacy that hopefully folks can all relate to. There is also a lot about identity. I think as humans (definitely as comedians) we are constantly searching for ways to explain who we are to the world. We want to feel understood and to understand ourselves. The title of the show is a cheeky nod to the 40-Year-Old Virgin and the way we label ourselves and how others label us. There are so many of my friends, myself included, who identify so much with our astrological sign. We are obsessed! It’s wild! I’m a Virgo so that’s why I’m a perfectionist who likes to be in control, or maybe that has nothing to do with my star sign. This show touches on the idea that we are in search of ways to tell the world who we are, which can be empowering and a form of connection, but can also feel limiting at times, especially if you’re still learning and growing and changing. I love being able to label something and organize it neatly away, but life is messy and can’t always be fit neatly into a box. As you can probably tell I’m painfully earnest so I was worried that wouldn’t translate well to the UK style of dry humor. I toned it down a bit, but I can’t help my Midwest earnestness.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh…
Like the 40-Year-Old Virgin, but younger and with more astrology.
or
Do you like potatoes?


The 30-Year-Old Virgo

PQA Venues @ Riddle’s Court

Aug 12-4 (22:00)

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www.gingerlymyself.com

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