James Barr: Thirst Trap

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Underbelly, White Belly
  August 5-11, 13-25 (17:20)

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Within the first 5 minutes of James Barr’s show I find myself wondering how he’s managed to stay single for this long. Despite wearing a man-sized avocado outfit, he nimbly Two-Steps with audience members in breezy, off-the-cuff chit chat as he introduces the show. He has been single for too long, and has decided to come to the Edinburgh Fringe to Tinder style ‘Right Swipe’ members of the audience he thinks are cute and invite them for an on stage speed date. The accompanying lightly tragic explanation for doing so in an avocado outfit is both funny and personally engaging, and this buys him all the goodwill he requires to launch into the first of the interactive date sessions.

The first audience member plucked from obscurity to take a shot at the top prize of becoming Barr’s Beau, is Jake. To the obvious delight of both James, and the audience, it transpires that Jake is a horse trainer. It’s at this point that James’ talents really shine. Rather than launching into a stream of cheap, obvious, gags he allows the audience to laugh itself out, then coyly inquires from under dipped beam, batting, eyelashes “So what does that involve?”
“Well, you just ride them till they’re tired out.” Comes the reply, and the audience go wild again. This effortless charm kept me deeply engaged throughout the whole performance.

The scripted material was somewhat more hit and miss. During the middle section James finally explains to us that a ‘Thirst Trap’ is “A sexy guy who looks for attention by posting semi naked pictures of themselves doing banal things”, and this provides some classic ‘caption competition’ style jokes. I’ll leave to your own imagination what it was that the guy who’d drawn the Eiffel Tower on his abs claimed he was trying to raise awareness of. A skit about finding the voice on a Mindfulness App uncontrollably arousing is less well received, like a slightly shoddily put together Cassetteboy remix of ‘Tony Robbins’ reading soft porn. It does have a cute, if tacky, visceral finish though.

Even though some of the scripted sections felt like fillers, there are a number of fine one-liners throughout, and it’s the time spent with James in the company of his dates, and his excellent audience work, which makes this show a perfect late afternoon palate cleanser of charm and whimsy.

Ewan Law

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An Interview with Dom Mackie

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Dom Mackie is a young, storytelling master of therapeutic comedy…


When did you first realise you were funny?
To be honest, I still don’t see myself as funny, I guess the fact other people laugh at what I say is a bonus. Suppose the first gig where I got an applause break was when I first realised, I was funny, cause at least I was so funny the audience wasted their energy putting two hands together for it.

How did you get into stand-up?
When I was in my first year at university, I attended the comedy society and did some improv there. One of the members liked what they saw and invited me to an open mic night in the city, I’ve never looked back since.

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As a post-millennial, do you find that comedy is changing, is the material of older comics still relevant?
It is always good to keep up with the times as the more relatable your material is towards younger audiences, the better presence you have on social media (presence=promotion). I feel society is very PC nowadays so you do have to be very careful with what you say, but it depends if you are actually that bothered with what people think, which I’m not.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Oh this is easy! Chilling on the sofa, watching Netflix, not being bothered if you accidentally fall asleep when watching… bliss.

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If your comedy style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Wow, from an easy question to a challenging one! I’d say the key ingredients are energy, storytelling and audience chatter, I do all three in my set and if I don’t, then clearly something is up with me that day.

Can you tell us about the show?
It is called “Poor Life Choices”, it is a therapeutic experience for the audience, where I not only go over the stupid decisions in my life, but the audience reveal stories about their lives. By the end, we feel like a community but it’s a hilarious community at the same time.

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You’ve been touring ‘Poor Life Choices’ across the world for quite a wee while now. How has the show evolved in that time?
From doing previews in pubs in Cambridge to worldwide shows has been an incredibly quick journey. I find it hard to even process how quick its been. It started with a 35-minute TED talk pretty much now, but now it involves the audience and it has become a solid hour long stand up show with good reviews.

How did it go down in America?
I am always concerned when taking my stand up outside the UK due to the different reactions I could get from it. I was beyond overjoyed by the different reactions I got from outside the UK and I am returning to America in July, I can’t wait to perform there.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets…
Do you like stupid stories? Do you like to watch someone suffer? Do you like comedy? Then come and see ‘Poor Life Choices’, the sell out show where sad times lead to good fortunes.


Poor Life Choices

The Caxton Arms

May 28 & 29 

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www.dommackie.co.uk

An Interview with Sonia Aste


Sonia Aste is coming back to Brighton with a whole new comedy menu…


Hello Sonia, so where ya from and where ya at, geographically speaking?
Sonia: Like my show’s title: I’m Made in Spain! And to prepare audiences for my show – I ordered a SPANISH SUMMER so everyone can feel like a true local.

When did you first realise you could make people laugh?
Sonia: My mom says that as a new born people laughed because I looked like a grumpy old man. I also made these mumbling complaining noises that reminded her of my uncle Antonio … who was (and still is!) a grumpy old man. So making people laugh started pretty early I guess.

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How did you get into Comedy?
Sonia: My grandparents’ house was always full of laughter. Their philosophy was ‘When life laughs at you … you laugh right back! Because when the going gets tough … laughter can keep you going’. A wonderful lesson which I hold dear in my heart.

What is your ideal Sunday afternoon?
Sonia: After Saturday’s FIESTA –Sunday SIESTA!

As a Spaniard living in Britain, what do you think of the ongoing Brexit proceedings?
Sonia: Like the Spanish festival: LA TOMATINA, (metaphorical) tomato throwing and complete confusion.

What are the differences between the Spanish & the British senses of humour?
Sonia: Humour is a little different, but luckily there’s no difference between a ‘British laugh and Spanish laugh’, because laughter is our one universal language.

What does Sonia Aste do when she’s not being funny?
Sonia: Worry about not being funny.

You are bringing MADE IN SPAIN to the Brighton Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Sonia: With Spain being one of the top destination for British tourists, my show shines a light into our cultural differences and what it means to be ‘Made in Spain’. It’s a fast paced show based on a ‘Tapas Menu’, and the audience chooses what they want to order. I wanted to cater to all comedy tastes and like a good Spanish meal, provide a space to share in the fun and laughter.

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You say your show will be based around a tapas menu … what would you recommend?
Sonia: The menu will change daily, making every show different – but I’d definitely recommend ‘Spanish Song Salad’ and ‘Mum’s Mash’. We will have daily specials too!

Have you tweaked the show since your successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe?
Sonia: YES! This is part two – brand new flavours while keeping the old favourites in the menu of laughs.


Made In Spain 2

Duke of Wellington

May 5, 7, 18, 25 (various times)

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www.soniaaste.com

An Interview with Nathan Cassidy

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Perennially prolific, the terrific Nathan Cassidy has a brand new show for 2019…


Hi Nathan, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Birmingham and now I live in Hackney in London.

When did you first realise you were, well, funny?
I was about six and it was that atrocious bit at a wedding between the ceremony and the dinner. It was a community hall and I entertained everyone for an hour on the stage. Technically it was my first hour show. I can’t remember the detail but I remember everyone laughing and probably getting emotional at the 40-minute mark when I did a bit about marriage inevitably failing.

Who are your comedy idols?
Growing up it was Rick and Ade, Alexei Sayle, Fry and Laurie and Rowan Atkinson. I’m slightly older than I look (I’m mid to late 20’s). Now it’s Bill Burr, Steve Coogan and anyone on youtube chucking ping pong balls into glasses from a slight distance.

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What are the processes behind the creation of one of your shows, from inception to hatching?
Nathan: I like to have an idea around this time of year for the following year, so I can start creating the material over the next six months in new material nights, I do a regular one in London on Mondays where you hear it all first. I’ve got my idea for next year, and the only danger of that is you put too much focus on the following year too early. It’s a very very very good idea though!! I’m going to take it on a bit of a World Tour, New Zealand and America.

What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
A year ago I’d have said writing comedy, a year ago I used to write comedy all the time. On Sunday afternoon maybe I’d have been in the pub or up on Hampstead Heath pretending to see friends but actually I’d have been thinking about comedy, writing comedy in my head. But then, at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, my life changed. I injured my back, in the same way most people injure their backs, by brushing my teeth, so joined a local gym in a bid to sort out my rubbish core. And I met someone. I met a man that would take me on a year of discovery, a truly bizarre year where I didn’t have to write any comedy to churn out another hour show, perfect.

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You’ve got a new show for 2019 – can you tell us about it?
So yes, I’ve never really been one for observational comedy because nothing from my day to day life I really found that amusing. Much as it would be lovely to find a routine from having a shower usually I just turn the shower on, have a wash, and get out of the shower. But after meeting this guy at the gym, this massive, strong man, he’s taken me on such a bizarre journey of discovery and self discovery that, brilliantly, the show has kind of written itself. I won’t give too much away but he started as my personal trainer, and quickly became much more. Everything about him and our relationship is unconventional, and ripe to stick straight into a comedy show. Let’s just say he is round my house a lot now. But he doesn’t use the shower. But if he did there would probably be a routine in it.

What it is at about this story that demanding a retelling on stage?
Everything. I needed someone to come into my life and shake it up. I think we look for like-minded people to surround ourselves with, but I met this guy who did everything I didn’t. He is at the gym 6am to 11pm every day. That’s all he does. He doesn’t read the news, he doesn’t know what’s going on in the world. He lifts Atlas stones. He’s religious. And he’s opened the door to a new future for me and shone a light on my past. He’s truly changed my life, and my comedy. No one is expecting an observational comedy show from Nathan Cassidy. No one is expecting any show. No one likes stand-up comedy any more. It’s a dying art from. I’m more into piano now.

What are the fundamental differences between the Brighton & the Edinburgh Fringes?
If you want, you can do the Brighton Fringe without seeing anyone else in the industry. Which I’m not saying for one second is absolutely brilliant, but I guess whatever you do you in life can you surround yourself with people who think your job is the most important thing in the world. Sometimes you need people around you that not only are not in your world, but don’t give a damn about anything in your world. And that can open your eyes to what’s important in life, and the direction you want to go in next. None of what I’m doing in comedy is important, however very, very funny it is. There’s a much bigger picture for me now, and this big, strong man has shown me the light. And there are beaches in Brighton that aren’t freezing. And you don’t go bankrupt.

Photography: Andy Hollingworth


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Observational

Caroline of Brunswick

May 4-6 (15:15) PWYW

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www.nathancassidy.com/al

An Interview with Katy Schutte

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Katy Schutte is bringing a touch of the Gothic to this year’s Brighton Fringe…


Hello Katy, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I live in London and I grew up in the South; Hampshire, Sussex.

When did you first realise you were funny?
There wasn’t a particular moment for me. My family have a good sense of humour. I guess it was more – discovering that other people aren’t always funny.

When did you first develop a passion for comedy?
I grew up on comedy. My Dad’s favourites were Oliver and Hardy, Morecombe and Wise, Victoria Wood and I saw my first Red Dwarf episode when I was 8 and can still quote series 1-5. I always read and watched comedy and I liked to write it myself from an early age.

Which comedian has made you laugh the hardest?
Many favourites have come and gone for me, but Bill Bailey is still one of the best. He’s chill, musical, mega-talented and still seems very down to earth. I also love Mike Birbiglia and his style of storytelling inspired my last show.

Can you tell us about the Maydays?
The Maydays are my improv family. I have been with the company for 15 years and we continue to develop and aspire and move forward. We were a short form improv troupe at the beginning, then with me and Rachel Blackman going to Chicago to learn, we took on long form improvisation and (with others) spread it throughout the UK.

What are the fundamental differences between improv & sketch comedy, & what skills are needed for each?
Improv is about other people. Improv doesn’t need to be funny. Stand-up is about frequency of laughs. Fundamentally, improv is a group activity and sketch probably means doing a first draft and bringing it to your director or team for re-writes and honing. Improv doesn’t always promise comedy, either; it might be an improvised play. A sketch comedian may not know how to improvise on stage with others and an improv comedian may not know how to write or deliver material. They are different animals.

What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
It is thrilling. Knowing that you made other people happy is a superb feeling. The pitfall of all comedy though is that if you take the positives personally, you also have to take the negatives personally. The best thing is to regard your work at a distance. It worked or didn’t, you are still great.

You’ve got three comedians (dead or alive) coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Firstly, cooking for three strangers would make me really stressed, so I’d cook easy, familiar stuff. I’d probably get a really good Olive bread to dip in oil and vinegar as a starter, Shakshuka or a feta filo pie made beforehand as the main. Dessert would be a pumpkin or banana cake. I’d want to invite comedian friends, but under pressure I’d invite Mike Birbiglia, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig.

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You’re performed at the Brighton Fringe before – in fact you bloody won the thing. What’s the story?
The Maydays won Best Comedy Show with Mayday! The Musical when we were only a few years old as a company. It was a great boost and totally unexpected. Jimmy Carr gave us the award. I was nominated for Best Comedy Show in 2018 for Schutte the Unromantic. I had made the show specifically as a show I wanted to make, not to please anyone or as a career move or marketing ploy, so it was amazing to have my from-the-heart stuff validated. Then Joe Morpurgo bloody won.

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You’re bringing a new show, LET’S SUMMON DEMONS, to this year’s Brighton Fringe; can you tell us about it?
I probably built an appreciative audience from my last show, but instead of capitalising on that, I’ve just gone off on a tangent. I felt compelled to make a show about witchcraft, the post #metoo world, the witch hunt of men and my Grandmother’s haunted house in Wales. It’s semi-immersive folk horror which is pretty far from Schutte the Unromantic. This one is called Let’s Summon Demons.

Where did you get the idea, & is the reality realising your original vision?
I’m really pleased with the show. It was well received at the London Horror Festival and I’m thrilled to bring it to VAULT this week and to Brighton in May. My team is amazing. The design and direction (Jonathan Monkhouse and John Henry Falle) are fantastic. I love the show and I think others will get a lot out of it too.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street…
If you like The Wicker Man, or any folk horror, if you like theatre that calls your beliefs into question, if you want to be involved, to bare your soul a little bit; this is your thing. It’s made by a witch and it’s fucking awesome.


Let’s Summon Demons

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The Hat at Warren
May 3/4/17/18

www.katyschutte.co.uk