A veritable Doctor Doolittle of Funniness is Heading to the Fringe
Hello Ryan, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Hey Mumble! I was born in Berkshire, a small town called Bracknell but let’s just go with, “near Reading”. Now I am living in the big city…..London.
When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
Hmm I guess, and this may sound typical of a comedian, but in school. I always enjoyed being the funny one or trying to make people laugh – however that is very different to doing it on stage. It took me a good few years to properly work out how to write stories & jokes for stage.
Which comedians have inspired you; both old skool & contemporary?
Growing up I used to watch the comedy my Dad watched. This meant I grew up on Tommy Cooper, Morcombe & Wise, Lee Evans & Jack Dee. These were the kind of comedians that first got my attention of how fun it was to make people laugh. Later down the line & the more I watched, comedians such as Lee Mack, Dara O’Brien & Bill Connolly. I enjoyed a mixture of the style of story telling & quick wit that these comedians delivered.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Oh easy. Starting with coffee & pancakes at home. Head out for a long walk somewhere with plenty of wildlife & nature. Then a few Guinness’s in a local pub with some good company. BLISS!
What does your mum think of all this performing malarkey?
I can quote her now. “Oh I love it, however I wish he didn’t have to swear as much as he does.” Mum is proud though, despite the use of crude language.
If your comedy style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Right, first of all I need a story. A base line, like somewhere to start. I guess they would be the onions?
Once I have that I need to add some good analogies & descriptive terms to really set the scene. That would be the sweet potato & tomatoes. I’d practice it again & again, on stage & off. This would be frying it all off.
Once I know the structure of the story, I’d add the jokes & ending. The twist or the main punchline. It has to be the reward to the audience for them sticking with you……this would be the stock. Once it’s all set it, I’ve got myself a new story for stage (or a delicious soup).
You are a regular on the London comedy circuit, how are you finding it?
It’s great. London has a great selection of clubs, all with a variety of audiences. It can take a while to work your way into a club, I’d say that’s the hardest part. Closely followed by keeping the standard up. You’re only as good as your last gig so in one city like London, you have to be on it each time you walk out on stage.
Can you tell us about your life away from comedy?
It can be summed up by one word. DOGS. I run a dog daycare company in North London. Monday – Friday, 9am-3pm, I am hanging out with 8-10 dogs at Hampstead Heath. It’s great & a wonderful business to have on the side of something like stand up comedy. Keeps you fit, fresh & happy. Aside from that you can find me anywhere you can find wildlife, at home baking or somewhere with a Guinness in my hand.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
I’m so excited to be performing my debut show, When Nature Calls. I’m bringing a new voice & a show by someone with unique experience. There’s stories in this show that comedians would have never experienced, such as life as zoo keeper & getting bitten by all sorts.
The Mumble’s dog, Daisy, makes us laugh a lot – but is there any humour in other animals?
Animals are either 1 of 3 things. Cute, interesting or absolutely hilarious & often all 3 of these things. An example of this would be the following facts:
– approx 50% of Orangutans have fractured bones purely from falling out of trees on a regular basis.
– Frogs can’t vomit, in a scenario where they absolutely have to, they will vomit their entire stomach.
– Kangeroos can’t fart.
The natural world is full of humour.
What is the ultimate message of your show?
That we all need to listen to the planet. We all need go back & connect with the natural world again. We all need to stop pretending the environment is another country & realise that the ground we walk on, is also part of the environment…….sorry to get deep there.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell When Nature Calls to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
If you love animals & struggle to tolerate people, this show is for you.
The Russians DO have a wicked sense of humour…
Konstantin Kisin is living proof
Hello Konstantin, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union, then Russia. I now live just outside of London.
When did you first realise you were funny?
I broke my arm playing basketball and found myself cracking jokes in the emergency room to keep everyone calm as they straightened my arm out!
How did you get into stand-up?
I went to a comedy festival where I saw top tier comics doing clubs sets for 8 hours a day, 5 days in a row and naively thought “That looks easy – I can do that!”.
What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
It’s a buzz. I think the most addictive thing about it is that it’s unpredictable. One night you’re killing it, next night you’re struggling. You never know how it’s going to go so it keeps you hungry and sharp.
Can you tell us what you know about the comedy scene in Russia?
There isn’t much of one. To have a genuine comedy scene, you need a freedom scene.
Can you tell us about Kilkenomics & your role?
Kilkenomics invites some of the leading political and economic thinkers in the world to participate in debates hosted by comedians. It’s the perfect place for a political comedian like me!
You’re debuting at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
A show about being in the middle of a major international newstory, being saluted by John Cleese and abused online by Katie Hopkins.
What are the ingredients that make your show special?
It’s a funny but intelligent, informative show that pushes back against woke dogma and restriction of free speech.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
Did you see the news story about the comedian who refused to sign a safe space contract? Wait, don’t go!
From family & friendship to the Fringe comes a touchingly hilarious show..
Hello Joe, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
North London, I grew up in Camden.
When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
I could do an impression of my art teacher when I was 16.
When did you first develop a passion for being a comedian?
When I was 18 I started to go to comedy clubs and got the bug.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, what have you got for us?
It’s the first story show I’ve done and the first show I’ve done about someone else. It’s actually about two people, my granddad and his best friend. It’s called ‘The Story of Walter and Herbert’, about town planner Walter Bor and actor Herbert Lom. Herbert helped my grandad Walter escape Nazi occupied Prague and they were very close for many years until they had a falling out, but something brought them back together.
How did you do your research & most of all, where did you find the humour in Nazi-occupied Europe?
I had to do a lot of research, I had to do a lot of interviews, I read my grandad’s book, listened to a 18 hour interview online and read letters they wrote to each other. On the face of it, it wasn’t particularly funny, but there is comedy in everything, I just had to look deeply and experiment with my telling of the story. What the Nazi’s did is far from funny, but there is still comedy in the story. Just looking at the photographs, the fashion, the relationships, the architecture, my grandad’s obsession with food…I realised there is plenty of potential for laughs. the challenge is in not belittling their achievements and being sensitive to the tragedy that surrounds it. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Can you tell us a little more about the two mens’ careers post-war.
My granddad was in charge of rebuilding the East End of London after the war which was pretty important and then was a town planner for Liverpool, he then designed Milton Keynes and went back to be a town planner for Prague.
Herbert had some big roles in the Theatre, the King and I, before working as an announcer for the BBC after the war, so his mum could hear he was alive and well. He did some heavy dramatic roles in big movies such as Spartacus until Blake Edwards (director of The Pink Panther) said he was funny when he was serious and cast him as detective Dreyfus in The Pink Panther, he did many films opposite fellow comedy legend Peter Sellers and was in Ealing comedies such as The LadyKillers as well.
What was your relationship with grandfather like, & how does your show reflect that?
I discuss our relationship in the show. He died when I was 18, and when I was a teenager I wasn’t really interested in him and I am ashamed of that. I was his eldest grandson, I saw him lots and he’d take me to architecture lectures and influenced me a lot but I think we were very distant. I have since realised he had a similar sort of that relationship with a lot of people. He never spoke about his family or his life, probably because it felt too painful.
What advice do you have for anyone performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time?
Find nice places to eat and exercise and nice places to escape the festival, that’s important. Don’t drink too much!
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
It’s a story about friendship, two best friends, who escaped nazi occupied Czechoslovakia, were each others’ best men, had a big falling out but an extraordinary thing happened that brought them back together. It’s a show that I’ve been working on for a while that means a lot to me, that’s funny and interested and heartwarming, if that’s what you like.
What will Joe Bor be doing for the rest of 2019?
I have a few things I am working on, some films and I am doing a big tour with Kojo Anim (finalist of BGT). Hopefully I’ll be touring this show too, I’d like it to have a life after Edinburgh, I feel like it’s an important show.
Part One in the very famous trilogy which tells the story of THE MUMBLE via those rather unscrupulous attacks of ne’er-do-wells
The Mumble is entering its seventh year at the Edinburgh Fringe, & it cannot be denied it has the coolest name, the slickest format & the best reviews. It is also the flagbearer for the revolution in the reviewing spheres that is demanding financial respect for its staff. This led to recent attacks by certain thespian types down south, which reminded the Mumble editorial team of similar conflicts in the past, which we call Mumble Rumbles. As a cheeky warm-up for the Fringe, we thought we’d proffer three of these Rumbles, including the latest one, which indirectly tell the story of the development of The Mumble, from the primitive blog-like beginnings, to our esteemed status as International Cultural Surveyors in 2019. The Mumble was launched in 2013, evolving out of a blog by Damian Beeson Bullen, in which he wrote, ‘Two summers ago, I threw myself headlong into the Edinburgh Fringe, reviewing as many shows as mi little legs could carry me to. This year, I’ve set up my own review site called THE MUMBLE, which means Multi-media Blogging, where you can find here. Now I’ve got myself a wicked wee team of reviewers together & we’re gonna be sampling some of the delights that Edinburgh Fringe 2013 has to offer, so if you’re in town or in Calcutta, enjoy.’
The Mumble did OK that first year, we were quite basic, but the writing was there. So we did it all again in 2014, which led to what we called ‘That Adam Riches Eruption.’ Essentially, one of our stalwart reviewsers to this day – Mark Divine Calvert – didn’t enjoy a comedian, but gave him an extra star for being from Yorkshire. Suddenly the publicist – Dan Pursey of Mobius PR – tried to bully us off the review – but we stood our ground which then got the national press involved. Suddenly everyone was talking about The Mumble. In our first proper battle, the result was a win-win, for not only did the incident raise our profile nationally, but the publicist lost his job, with the PR company came back the next year in an apologetic fashion asking for reviews.
Mark’s Original Review
It was a damp and wind-swept night and the welcoming warmth of the Pleasance Dome began to relaxed me into a state of mind ready for comedy. Tonight it was Adam Riches, a successful comedian with more awards that you can shake a stick at. Joining me was a capacity audience who clearly knew what we were in for. Alas I didn’t. With lots of audience participation, Adam humiliated his carefully chosen audience members who were middle class and loving every moment of it. Adam utilises different characters drawn from history, all of whom had a Yorkshire accent, which is a star point in itself. Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly, Adam was silly, pointless and yes, good fun. Which is just what his audience wanted. If you like trashy throw-away telly. Adam’s your man. Two Stars and one extra for being from Yorkshire.
A considered opinion?
Threat to block ‘disrespectful’ blog’s free tickets
A row has erupted on the Edinburgh Fringe after a PR company threatened to withdraw free press tickets from bloggers for not showing enough respect to the comedians they are writing about. Publicists at Mobius laid down the ultimatum after Mumble Comedy wrote a three-star review of former award-winner Adam Riches – saying that if the review was not altered or removed, they would not issue any more tickets, and spread the word to venues across the festival, too.
In return, the blog accused the company of trying to intimidate them into taking down a poor review – saying: ‘We cannot be bullied out of our integrity’. However, some changes to the review, by Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert, were made after Mobius first got in touch – including correcting the spelling of Riches’s name. The row is likely to spark debate over the line between established media and fans setting up an online presence in order to score free tickets.
Mumble Comedy’s ‘CEO’, Damo Bullen revealed the pressure from Mobius in a message beneath the review, accusing them of ‘chucking their toys out the pram & ask[ing] me to take it down’.
He refused saying: ‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinion & that Mark simply could not get into the comedy of Mr Riches.. The Mumble is an honest website, designed to help would-be show-goers make an informed choice. We cannot be bullied out of our integrity.’
Despite Bullen’s defiance, Dan Pursey from Mobius said the review HAD been changed since it first appeared – although Bullen insists any changes were ‘cosmetic’.
Pursey said: ’The original review also contained some very odd references that, apart from anything else, gave the impression our client’s work hadn’t been met with the respect, care and attention it deserved. These have since been removed. ‘
‘We really do support and encourage new titles, websites and critics and like to offer them access to write about our clients’ work where we can. We also totally acknowledge that everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion.
‘But when we initially (very diplomatically) expressed our concerns the site representative was quite uncooperative, and my worry was that this could be an attitude that stretched across the site. I’m sure it isn’t, but had there been more evidence of care, I wouldn’t have had to push quite so hard to get them to pay attention.’
It’s understood that after the original contact from Mobius the sentences ‘Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly’ to ‘Adam’s your man.’ were added, and references to the critic’s urge to go home and ‘listen to his Tricky CD’, and spend more time in his leopard print pyjamas with a large mug of tea were removed.
Speaking to Chortle, Bullen added: ‘Do you know what annoyed me the most – it was his brash, aggressive condescending attitude that wanted to sink my ship when a lot of people – performers, reviewers, back stage staff – have benefited from it.’
Mumble Comedy – a free WordPress blog that uses unlicensed clip art to illustrate the number of stars – was set up for last year’s Fringe and only publishes for the festival. It currently has 140 ‘likes’ on Facebook.
And they haven’t got around to writing their ‘About Us’ page, which says: ‘This is an example of a page. Unlike posts, which are displayed on your blog’s front page in the order they’re published, pages are better suited for more timeless content that you want to be easily accessible, like your About or Contact information. Click the Edit link to make changes to this page or add another page.’
Steve Bennet: A Jaded Opinion? By 2019 Steve Bennett is rapidly becoming the Arsene Wenger of comedy reviewing. On three occasions last Fringe I was completely blown away by the youthful talent & bountiful originality of certain artists, whose shows’ names I shall leave out of this wee pontification. Five star shows the lot of them. Yet, a couple of days after my own visitations, Mr Bennett trundled in to see the same shows & is only giving them 3s. Is he observing the same shows that I am? Is he seeing the same hunger of performers in their prime, the same tenacity of talent, the same boundary-breaking of burgeoning genius? Clearly yes, for he does describe each show’s sheen accurately enough – but the substance & magic, definitely not. Once is opinion, twice is taste, but thrice… that doesnae even make the Europa League. Perhaps it is time, like Mr Wenger, for Bennett to retire from front-line duties & leave the reviewing to a fresh generation. Throughout the 21st century comedy, like football, has evolved & it seems like Mr Bennett is stuck firmly in the stand-up of the past, when comedians of today are soaring on the winds of the future.
Back in 2014, the next to get hold of the story was Brian Logan of the Guardian, whose own article on the matter reads;
Critical condition: how comedy coverage at the Edinburgh fringe is changing
As the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh, there’s been a rise in alternative voices. Some new reviewers will be learning on the job – just like novice standups
My colleague Lyn Gardner wrote last week about “a critical exodus from the fringe by the mainstream press”, and I share her concerns. The issue is discussed in comedy circles too: I’ve spoken to several PRs who say they haven’t had much to do at this year’s fringe, because coverage in the mainstream press is so diminished. Of course, the flourishing of alternative critical voices online is an exciting development, but perhaps not yet an adequate replacement – as one confrontation last week made clear.
The contretemps – as reported at Chortle.com – was between the arts PR agency Mobius and the website Mumble Comedy, and it concerned the latter’s review of the former’s client, the comedian Adam Riches. Mobius contacted the website to express displeasure at – and request amendments to – a three-star review that lacked “the respect, care and attention [Riches] deserved”. That was met with what Mobius call an “uncooperative” response, which led to the PR threatening to withdraw free tickets from the website. The blog’s editor, Damo Bullen, posted an angry response, insisting “we cannot be bullied out of our integrity”.
The review that caused the fuss can no longer be read in its original form. Mobius’s complaint seems to be, not that it was critical of Riches’ show, but that it was half-arsed (it misspelled Riches’ name, for example). Even the revised version is a little slapdash and impressionistic. But does that justify Mobius’s threatened withdrawal of privileges? And what does the fuss tell us about the state of fringe criticism?
On the former point, I don’t think any publication – not the Guardian, not Mumble Comedy – has a divine right to free tickets. With rights come responsibilities: publications have to demonstrate a degree of professionalism, commitment and (pace Mobius’s complaint) respect. (They probably also need a readership – or the likelihood of acquiring one.) On the latter point, well, there’s clearly a frustration in some quarters that – as the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh – acts are ever more dependent on the opinion of often inexperienced and unauthoritative reviewers.
That’s not meant to denigrate amateur criticism, or professional online criticism, which supplies much of the best writing around the fringe. (It’s also worth noting that critics of all stripes have been unpopular with artists since the year dot.) But we should be more explicit about the fact that – as BAC artistic director David Jubb discussed on Twitter last week – “Edinburgh is [the developing] critic’s equivalent of scratch” – ie a place to learn in public, and seek feedback in order to improve.
The them-and-us, /de haut en bas/ relationship between critics and artists (or their representatives) is never helpful, but least of all when many critics have yet to earn trust or demonstrate commitment to the artform they’re writing about.
In that context, dialogue is good. The world of Fringe reviewing is changing, and it’s in everyone’s interest that the new model – which will include a far wider range of reviewers and publications than the old – foregrounds lively and intelligent discussion of the artform. That’ll only happen if all parties speak to one another about what they want criticism to be.
It’s a shame the conversation got antagonistic, but Mobius did the right thing by contacting Mumble Comedy with their concerns. We probably all intuit that some writing – the careful, attentive, “respectful” kind, perhaps? – constitutes valid criticism, and some writing doesn’t. We’ll only know where that line should be drawn if we talk about it.
The above image was created in 2014 by the reviewer-reviewer site, Fringepig.It wont be the last time they snorted at The Mumble – indeed, we’ll be looking at our ‘war’ with them in the next episode. But back in 2014 Fringepig & Chortle did actually have a point, & their criticisms gave us a wee kick up the arse. We were young, we were just stepping out, it was all good! By the next year we had figured out how WordPress Menus work, & also designed our own stars, with a lovely M in the centre of each one. We also completely overhauled our scoring system. Where the rest of the review world awarded 1-5 stars, sometimes halving them, we started to award 5 stars in three different categories, from which we could obtain a more natural overall score. Each Mumble would have its own categories – Comedy would be marked on material, delivery & laughs; Theatre on stagecraft, performance & script, & so on. So instead of our never getting a press ticket in town again – As Dan Pursey thoroughly wished – we became instead the most sophisticated reviewers on the scene.
Nigel Osner is back & he’s off to the Edinburgh Fringe…
Hello Nigel, so first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in London and still live there.
Your journey to performer is quite a convoluted one, can you tell us the short version?
Will try! I am a non-practising barrister and was employed in the Ministry of Justice. But I had a yearning to be a performer. I began by helping to write, then act in, departmental pantomimes. I fancied myself as rather good, but came to realise I needed singing lessons, courses on acting and the advantage of a good director! I appeared at a couple of fringe venues, doing a mixture of existing material – e.g. Coward, Kurt Weill, Lehrer – and writing my own lyrics. I also started to work three days a week, to spend more time on writing and performing. In 2008 I left the Department and found an acting agent. However, I stopped performing for a bit and got more involved in films or fringe theatre. In 2011 I thought I would give performing another go. Since then in London I have performed at the Crazy Coqs, the studio at the Other Palace, the Pheasantry and more alternative venues. In 2016 it seemed time to try the Edinburgh Fringe, so I put together ‘Angel to vampire!’, an entirely original show based on my life’s yearnings. My current show, which I will be taking to the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringes this year, is called ‘Too young to stay in, too old to go out!’ What I do is tell stories, whether in song or monologues, as different characters, both men and women – and occasionally supernatural beings!
You’re quite the polymath, where do you think such a wide array of interests come from?
Creativity can come out in different ways at different times. For a long time I expressed this side by painting, portraits especially. This overlapped with my writing and I had a children’s book published years ago. I helped adapt this into a musical. I have continued writing and enjoy the fantasy genre. However, I particularly wanted to express myself as a performer. By writing my own material at least nobody can say they have seen it done better! As to why there are these different interests, I can’t say. I just need to express myself in this way. I no longer paint though. But underlying everything is a sort of escapism and yet also a desire to be truly myself.
A couple of years ago you performed ‘Angel to Vampire!’ in Brighton and Edinburgh – how did it all go?
‘Angel to vampire!’ is a show about my life’s yearnings. However, I don’t illustrate everything directly. After all, I’m neither an angel nor a vampire! I thought it was brilliant title, but in retrospect not everyone likes vampires and for those who do, there would not have been enough supernatural characters. The show got some good reviews in Edinburgh, including that in the Fringe Review, which was beautifully written, supportive and a joy to have. However, the audience could have been larger so, as with many Edinburgh shows, I lost a bit of money. I also learned lessons for the future about venues and advertising. I stayed for the whole of the Edinburgh Fringe but the following year performed only seven days in the Brighton Fringe. Again, that could have been busier but the feedback was positive and I have now developed a good relationship with Sweet venues.
Can you tell us about the unfortunate break in proceedings from last year’s follow-up show?
Break literally! I had arranged to perform ‘Too young to stay in, too old to go out!’ with Sweet for four early evenings. The first two shows were full and the audience reaction was very encouraging. On the second night I went out afterwards with two friends from London. It was a jolly evening! Nevertheless, I did not get back that late to where I was staying. I had to get up in the middle of the night and somehow my right foot gave way. I could not walk on it in the morning so took myself off to the hospital. I thought I had sprained the foot or possibly broken a toe. In fact I had broken four metatarsals, which was regarded as serious because of potential swelling. As I couldn’t do the show sitting down, I had to cancel the remaining performances and hire a minicab to London. That did not lead to financial profit!
So what is ‘Too Old To Stay In Too Young To Go Out’ all about?
It is about the challenges and occasional opportunities for those who can no longer claim to be young, even to themselves. I examine dating, love, work, holidays – even the gym! I do this with original songs and stories by male and female characters. There’s lots of humour but with a bitter sweet edge. Characters include Gerald who is having a taxing night out in central London; a rich designer who falls for his hunky gardener; the woman driven mad by her companion on a river cruise down the Danube; and a fading star on an endless tour. I am particularly – but not exclusively – aiming the show at an older audience, as I am not sure enough material is written with their concerns in mind..
You’ve just performed the show in Brighton – how did it go & have you tweaked the it in the interim?
The show went well in May. Audience reaction was warm and involved. Fringe Review called it ‘a beautiful piece of solo work’. Broadway Baby said it was ‘‘Witty, bitchy, achingly sad and, finally, strangely uplifting’. I have been working on the show for over a year now. One piece has been omitted and a new song has been introduced. The narrative in between the songs and stories has been altered or developed. In Brighton the show achieved pretty much its final Fringe state. There have been only a few tweaks since then.
What are the fundamental differences between performing at the Brighton & the Edinburgh Fringes?
The Brighton Fringe is less full-on, less crowded and has more of a local audience, which I find appreciates my material. A huge proportion of the Edinburgh audience come along from outside the city. In 2018 there were 3500 shows. It is not a relaxing experience.
What advice do you have for someone making their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe?
I would really want to catch that person before they made their debut. If they have never been to the Edinburgh Fringe, they should go up the year before and check out the venues, the shows and the vibe. If this is now their first year, go to an introduction to the Fringe if they can get to one. Be very clear about what they want from the Fringe and go after those aims. When in Edinburgh, make use of Fringe Central. Staff there are helpful. Go to events. Speak to other Fringe performers. Work hard on promoting the show. Take advantage of any opportunity. Do not expect unalloyed joy. Look out for the positives and value them.
What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
In August I’ll be taking my show to the Edinburgh Fringe. My aim is to promote interest in a tour of small venues and a London run of an expanded version of the show. I would like to revive ‘Angel to Vampire!’ for Halloween. Apart from that I’ll do bits and pieces plus try to get cast in a play or film. And I’ll hope to write some new material.
The ultimate Love Muffin is moving into Edinburgh’s Old Town
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 Youtube.
Have your stints at the Edinburgh Fringe toughened you up as a comedian?
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 have you learnt about yourself and your act since 2014?
I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was, if you wanna test your sanity after coming out of a mental hospital, I recommend getting into stand up comedy. I’ve also learned that I need to choose my battles. I was angry when I started out, because I’d been through a lot of trauma. I would fight anyone and everyone. I’ve realised now, it’s not worth the energy. I think my act has become more honest and intimate, even though I don’t perform topless anymore. I came from an acting background so my original persona wasn’t really me. I think the real Sammie is standing up now.
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 Edinburgh 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 advice do you have for someone making their Edinburgh debut in 2019?
I don’t feel like I am in a position to give anyone advice. Especially unsolicited. I debuted a year and a half into stand up. It was a conscious decision. I was anti-competition and didn’t want the pressure. Most comedians wait 5 years before doing a debut hour, they want the newcomer award. I just wanted to get onstage and talk to people, I needed to feel like I had a voice. I just wanted to speak my truth. My advice is just do you.
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!
Blasting out on a comedy missile from the epicenter of American politics, comes one of its funniest commentators…
Hello Naomi, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I spent most of my life in New York City but now I love in our glorious and equally loathed nation’s capital Washington, D.C.
When did you first develop a passion for Comedy?
I remember liking comedy before I started liking boys, so I had to be around age ten.
How did you get into stand-up?
I watched so much of it growing up. Probably more than was appropriate for a child.
Which comedians have inspired you; both old school & contemporary?
So many. John Leguizamo, Janeane Garofalo, Margaret Cho, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Izzard, Frankie Boyle, Ali Wong, and many more. Hard question.
What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
It feels like magic to make people laugh just with your words, rather than like tickling them or something. And more than anything I wanted to be a witch=
Can you tell us about Redacted Tonight & your role with the show?
Redacted Tonight is a lefty political satire show. I’m a correspondent on it and write, produce and perform my own segments. I also get to choose my own stories which is pretty rare, and get to talk about issues I really care about and make dark, sick and twisted jokes about them. It’s a dream job covering a nightmare world.
What are the creative impulses & processes behind writing your material?
I like to take really sad things and make them funny. I like to make my job as difficult as possible.
You’re performing your debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
Now four out of the five top weapons companies in the US are led by women, and Americans celebrate that. My show is about how frightening that is. It’s also about me and my crazy family.
From which of the feminist spheres do you find the best materials for humour?
I find scenarios like above, where women tend to apply feminism where it doesn’t belong, particularly funny.
How do you think the British audiences will handle your personal comedic style?
I’ve performed in the UK before and I think the UK loves dark comedy.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Edinburgh, what would you say?
This is a show about women killing it…literally.