An Interview with The Bareback Kings

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The Bareback Kings are smashing their hilarious way through the gender barrier


Hello Barebacks, first things first, where are you all from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Alice: We hail from London, Birmingham and Canada. We are now dotted around Zones 1 and 2 of London.

Hello, The Bareback Kings. First things first, what happens at one of your shows?
Jules: Essentially, we’re an all-female, drag king, improvised comedy team. In our shows we play the same male characters – Brent, Seb, Dirk, Gary – every time, but the shows are always wildly different and completely unplanned. We never know what to expect! At the top of the show our characters chat up some lucky members of the audience. Then the lads discuss whatever’s on our and our audience’s minds and use that chat as the inspiration for a series of fully-improvised, impromptu comedy scenes. And, more often than not, someone ends up boning someone else.

What is it about being funny in front of other people that makes you tick?
Alice: To quote Lady Gaga, “I live for the applause, applause, applause
I live for the applause-plause, live for the applause-plause”

Can you tell us about how an improv school works, like Free Association, Monkey Toast and Upright Citizens Brigade?
Rebecca: Well first, there is a challenging entrance examination. If you pass that, it’s on to eight gruelling years of torturous sleight-of-hand training and the occasional game of quidditch. After that, you emerge with new found courage, spontaneity and a degree in wizardry. But, for realzies, each school varies a bit but for the most part it’s around 5 levels. If you’ve done improv before, some schools will let you audition to start at level 2. In level 1, you learn the basics of how to “yes and” and build the foundation for a scene. In level 2/3, you typically learn how to play the “game” of the scene and some more advanced improv tricks. Level 4, it’s the Harold, one of the more complex longform formats. And then level 5 is anything extra, like other formats or openings.

What is ‘long-form improv?’
Jules: To my mind, long form improv is anything that isn’t a five minute improvised game, the type of which you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of short form, it’s where my improv life began. Long form has no rules to how you play – you’re not trying to guess something or anything like that. So it’s a looser, longer style of improv.

 

When did you first realise you were funny?
Francesca: The first time I made people laugh, I wasn’t even cognisant that I was doing so. I am told by my familythat aged 3 or so on our annual jaunt to the pantomime, I was apparently prancing up and down the aisle with my own wand when the fairy godmother appeared, uttering “What you wish?!”. I started dancing aged 3 and have been a performer ever since. I come from a very expressive family of Londoner publicans who always added a little flair to what they were saying and I guess it was just second nature to me. Therefore, when many little girls got the message to sit down, be quiet and not make fart sounds – mine somehow got lost in the post. I always felt I was a little odd and an outlier, as the things I found funny and the way I would act was so different to everyone else. However when I got further into comedy and in particular improv, I realised there were other odd bods like me.

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How did you get into comedy in the first place?
Alice: I’ve always loved comedy and I used to write and perform sketches when I was younger. Then I went a long time without it, and I missed it – I ached for it like a long-lost skilful lover. And so I took the plunge and enrolled in a comedy improv class and have never looked back.

Which comedians have inspired you; both old skool & contemporary?
Jules: Once you start thinking about it it’s kind of everyone, isn’t it? Even comics you don’t like inspire you. Constant sources of joy and inspiration include Julia Davis, Flight Of The Conchords and their incredible solo careers, Lolly Adefope, Tash and Jamie Demetriou, Kemah Bob (who also has a drag king alter ego), Luke McQueen, and the inimitable Zoe Coombs Marr.

What are the three main differences between an Improviser & a Stand-Up?
Rebecca: Two make-believe turntables and a tangible microphone.

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What are the differences between a bad MC & a good one?
Francesca: A good MC and a bad MC are worlds apart. The worst MC’s are the kinds that create an awkward energy in the room, making the audience retreat into their chairs, making the work of the acts tenfold to get the audience back on side. They can do that by being really aggressive with the audience, by being super low energy and avoidant or by being extremely awkward. It’s also a major bummer if they are too overflowing with praise as it sets a high pedestal you must climb upon before you can delight and then we can all enjoy. The best MC’s are responsive to the audience and create a warm and thriving atmosphere. Audience interaction is fine by me and has reaped some of my peak comedic moments, however it is key to not be cliche and focus on the front row and rely on the audience for it all. They should merely be your stimulus. Also, if someone isn’t into it – leave them alone! When an MC has set the room gently aflame, without doing too much of their material (that can kill the flow) it gives you a machine that’s been running a while, so you can hit the ground running. Being a good comedian isn’t the same as being a good MC. In the way only special folk who have the nature and desire can be teachers, the same applies to MC’s.

What’s the difference between live comedy and the stuff you get on the telly?
Alice: The stuff on the telly is obviously honed and brilliant. But with the live stuff, you get to feel like you’re part of it. Like an in joke with a best friend or your work wife.

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Can you tell us about Brent Would?
Francesca: Well he’s a Metrosexual Essex Boy and aspiring YouTuber, on a journey to being woke. Trying hard but often getting it wrong… He is clown, musical improv and stand up all rolled into one denim clad drag king shaped ball. He was born out of my love for drag and the wider LGBTQIA community. I had started going to various shows and I met the divine drag queen Hollie Would, who had me as a co-host on her radio show on Wandsworth Radio. Where we interviewed the marvellous Adam All – who is a an incredible figure in the drag community and a super supportive and talented drag king! Adam mentioned the competition “Man Up!” for drag kings and I thought…maybe I’ll dip a toe in. I did and the water was good! So that was in 2016 and since then he has performed far and wide and has even been on the Telly getting a wicked cool makeover! Brent allows me to push the envelope comedically and to straddle the taste line and push into territories that Francesca gets judged for, which is both exciting and frustrating. Brent is just a total lad, watch out he’ll ask you out…

You know a good improv show when you’ve done one – what are the special ingredients?
Rebecca: Listening, reacting, having fun!

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How did The Bareback Kings get together?
Francesca: We were sat having a drink and a chat after a Monkey Toast gig in Elephant and Castle back in 2017 and we started to chat about gender in comedy and drag kings. We all wanted a way to feel less confined by gender onstage, and we wanted to make the audience question how much they assume when they see a female performer step onto the stage. And we all really love drag! One thing led to another with us all giving an emphatic “Yes and…” and The Bareback Kings were born. We knew we wanted to play the same male characters at every show, so we could really dig deep into who they were as people. We started jamming together and finding out our characters’ individual and collective backstories, and then gigged a tonne. We have travelled the globe with the lads and we have so much more room for growth. All teams need to evolve and we are committed to doing so and can’t wait to see what the future holds for our lads.

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What are the creative processes behind writing Bareback’s material?
Jules: Our Camden Fringe show is a slight departure from our typical Bareback Kings improvised sets. There will be plenty of improv in the show but we’re also introducing sketch and song for the first time. The creative process is loosely that we each come to rehearsal with an idea – be it a topline thought for a funny premise to a sketch, a script we’ve been working on, a song we’d like to spoof, or a new way into an improv set. We discuss it, improvise around it, get it up on its feet, give feedback, and finesse it together. If required, the person whose idea it is goes away and writes it up. Then we do it in a gig! Sometimes the person who brought the idea loses faith in it, in which case we’ll try to work out how to salvage it together but if we can’t, it’s ok to let it go. We’re lucky in that we can be honest with one another about our ideas, and we also find each other very funny.

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The Bareback Kings are performing at this year’s Camden Fringe; can you tell us about the show?
Rebecca: This will be our very first hour-long show! Exciting, I know. The same four lads trying to figure out how to be woke yet still maintain their lad credentials. Since they have more time on their hands, they’ll tackle even more issues through improv, sketch, and song – from how to successfully repress emotions, to mansplaining away the worst male behaviour our audience has encountered. Pop by The Taproom, August 5th and 6th, at 7pm to catch it!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of London…
Alice: Come and see us, it is genuinely a unique hour of your life. We make fun of the worst boyfriend you’ve ever had. Also, I totally look fit as a lad.


The Bareback Kings

The Taproom

Aug 5 & 6 (13:30)

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www.barebackkings.wixsite.com

An Interview with Stephen Catling

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.


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Stephen Catling vs. Himself & Other Monsters

2 Northdown

Aug 1-3 (21:00)

camden

www.facebook.com/comediancatling

The Carnal Magic of Scott Agnew’s “Work in Progress”

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Glasgow Comedy Festival
March 30th, 2019

Material: five-stars  Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: five-stars  


Having seen Agnew headlining the fellow Glasgow Comedy Festival show Commissioned earlier that same week, I was delighted to be able to get tickets to his “Work in Progress” show at the State Bar. Throughout an hour of Agnew exploring the minutiae of Grindr dates and gay male culture in Glasgow, I was really impressed with the dynamism Agnew brought to the stage, and it reminded me why he is so highly-rated within the Scottish stand-up circuit.

Much like his performance that I covered in my review of Commissioned, as he balanced precariously on the tiny stool in the venue room of the State Bar, Agnew launched into a filthily funny take on life as a HIV-positive, self-described “poof” living and dating in Glasgow. Standing at an impressive six-foot, 5-inches with a heavy Glaswegian accent, Agnew’s insights into these areas of gay male culture were mesmerising, from his graphic description of getting laid in city centre alleyways, to chasing hook-ups on online dating apps. In one brilliant segment, he described how, after being enticed by a particularly impressive dick pic on Grinder, he took a taxi to sixty miles away in the hope of a hook-up, before revealing the inevitable, and absolutely hilarious comedown that followed.

Agnew took command of the room as he led the audience through these hilarious tales in revolting, delicious detail. His use of hand gestures was a clever element of his performance, moving his fingers cheekily like a sloppy pianist as he detailed the fleshly delights of an alley-way next to McDonalds. I couldn’t help but feel that some sections of the audience were a little taken aback by his openness, but I found the unabashed nature of his stories absolutely enchanting, and of course hysterical. Very quickly into his performance, I couldn’t help but feel like a character in some kind of corrupted fairy tale, in which I was being effortlessly transported to the back-alleys and sex parties of Central Scotland, a demonstration of Agnew’s story-telling chops.

As a comic who has spoken publicly about his own struggles with mental health and how this relates to his identity as a gay man, I felt that this is where the real magic of his stand-up lay. While managing to avoid leading the show into overt political or social commentary, the intensely honest nature of Agnew’s stand-up nonetheless felt subversive. Without being on the nose about it, his material at times suggested to me that he was clearly not just wanting to gain laughs out of his past sexual escapades, but intended to play a part in normalising his own personal experiences and struggles as a gay man to wider audiences by making a contribution to the incremental, progressive cultural and social transformations that stand-up plays a significant part in promoting. Overall, I found it to be easily one of the most polished and funny stand-up shows I’ve seen in years. As expected of a work in progress, the junctures between his bits were a little inelegant at times, but his commanding, confident style more than compensated for this between segues. Twenty minutes into the show, I genuinely did not want Agnew to get off the stage.

At one point in his performance, Agnew referenced the Billy Connolly murals that look over certain streets of Glasgow. Watching him, I couldn’t help but be reminded of just how impressively Connolly has transformed the nature of British stand-up into story-based monologues, and how comics such as Agnew have adopted and continued this lineage in the modern circuit. It also reminded me, like the Big Yin pioneered decades ago, how stand-up works best when it hits all the right notes between raw, painful honesty, balanced social and political exposition, pristine delivery, and of course, being fucking hysterical, a rare, comic stratagem. Agnew’s work is a beautiful testament to this; filthy without being derogatory, self-deprecating but not punitive, hedonistic but ethical. While at this point it’s a work in progress, I’m fascinated to see how Agnew transforms this material into an even more polished set. Having seen what he has to offer already however, I don’t doubt that it will be one of the best comic performances of any upcoming venue.

James Nixon

five-stars

Commissioned

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Glasgow Comedy Festival
March 27th, 2019


As one of the Glasgow Comedy Festival performances, I was really impressed with the quality of Commissioned and the range of comics, poets and artists on hand. Based around the theme of holidays, each artist was given two weeks to prepare their material for the show. Performed within the basement room of the State Bar, the venue really suited the intimacy of the show, and made for a friendly, participative energy between the acts and the audience.

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Elaine Malcolmson

The warm, communal liveliness of Commissioned was mastered by the show’s host, Elaine Malcolmson, jumping with ease between crowdwork over terrible holidays, to playfully abusing a Brexiteer sitting in the front row. She also acknowledged the initially disorganised feel to the show, with some of the comics who were billed not turning up on the night. Malcolmson followed this with a brilliant bit on some of the worst excuses she has ever been given for comic no-shows (“my girlfriend cut her finger”). For an event that was also slightly hindered by having its show-time wrongly listed online, Malcolmson did a fantastic job as host.

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Cat Hepburn

As one of the first acts, spoken word artist Cat Hepburn gave an excellent, early dynamism to the show by performing a set based around the worst experiences her female friends had encountered while on holiday with their ex-boyfriends. As a naturally likeable performer, she helped the audience quickly settle into the show, and was well-received. This was followed by a spoken word performance by Kevin P. Gilday, who told a hilarious story explaining why people with anxiety, such as himself, really shouldn’t travel to the forests of Ghana. His piece about trying to fend off poisonous snakes while travelling through African villages filled with machete-carrying inhabitants was brilliant.

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Sian Bevin

Closing the first half of the show, Sian Bevin shone as one of the show’s most impressive performers. Her observations on the privileged tourists she encountered on her travels in India stood out as one of the night’s sharpest moments, and her very personable, slightly awkward style worked really well with her material. The second half of the show continued with a very funny, neurotic animated comedy by EM. Steven Dick followed with a clever video short on his recent “holiday” to Aberdeen, dotted with misery inducing shots of the town and his Megabus journey. Timing between the divergent acts was one of the show’s biggest strengths, and a testament to Malcolmson’s excellent hosting.

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Scott Agnew

Scott Agnew delivered a clever finale to the show, and easily stood out as Commissioned’s best act of the night. Having seen Agnew numerous times at the Stand, the indomitable, raw liveliness he brought to the stage reinforced why he is considered to be one of Glasgow’s strongest professional comics, weaving cleverly between reminiscences on shite holidays and other pieces. His domineering stature accentuated his material, where Agnew, seated awkwardly on a small stool, gulped portions of his beer between main punchlines and tags. Seeing him in action again was a real delight, and delivered a perfect finish to an already excellent and diverse show.

Overall, I was impressed with Commissioned, and thought it made an excellent contribution to the Glasgow Comedy Festival. Ambitious in its structure, it struck the right chord between experimentation and expertise, and ensured a real diversity to the structure of its line-up that others show haven’t done quite as well. Now celebrating its seventh year in the scene, Commisioned’s performance at the 2019 Glasgow Comedy Festival was a real delight to watch, and I’m looking forward to future contributions.

James Nixon

An Evening with Rick Molland

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As you approach the Colosseum along the Via Labicana in Rome, one encounters a series of maps of the progression of the Roman Empire. The first one of these was just a dot on the map where Rome is, then the second shows its early expansion into the surrounding territories of Latina & Veii. This is exactly what is happening with Edinburgh’s Monkey Barrel Comedy, which has expanded from its tenancy at the Beehive on the Grassmarket, to opening its very own venue on Blair Street, right next to the City Cafe. Whereas The Stand is quite tricky to get to really, Monkey Barrel has placed itself like a knife at the jugular of a good night out, ready to slit our throats & let the laughter pour out until we lie helpless in fits on the floor.

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It was The Mumble’s sincere pleasure to be invited by chief monkey himself, Rick Molland, the guy whose been working this particular comedy seam in Edinburgh for a wee while now, having complete faith in his mining abilities, & has now struck gold! A minor-owner in Monkey Barrel, he would be MC-ing a well-balanced & eclectic thrill-ride for a yet another sold-out audience.

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Studying the room…

The Monkey Barrel’s main room  – & its rows of old cinema seats – is directly accessible from the street, which leads to an open-entry bar where a TV shows whats going on in the main room. As we were guests, we found ourselves sat on the cusp between the two, which gave as an intriguing insight into what comedians are doing before their sets – basically studying the room.

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Vladamir MacTavish

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We witnessed giddy opener Gareth Waugh, the drollosaur philanthropy of weegie-snarling Vladamir MacTavish; the bounce-a-along comedy bombast of the liltingly Welsh ‘I put the Jew in Judo‘ Bennett Aaron, & the quirky edginess of New Zealander, Sully O’Sullivan. Before, after, & inbetween, Rick deliver’d a pitch-perfect masterclass in working a room. My lovely wife, who escorted me on the night out, declared Rick to be ‘fuckin’ brilliant.’ He is a proper conductor of electrical energy into the room, a machine of perpetual comedy motion! Imagine a chef barking orders in a busy kitchen & you get somewhere near the vibe that Rick creates – but of course it is all quite hilarious. Sometimes you don’t even know why you’re laughing, but you’re doing it anyway – now that’s comedy genius!

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Sully O’Sullivan

After Sully had finished his smashing, headlining set, we hooked up with Rick for the wee walk along the frolic-infested Cowgate to the Grassmarket, back towards the Monkey Barrel’s spiritual home at the Beehive. Rick had invited us to his latest contribution to Edinburgh’s love of comedy – a late-night shindig in the Beehive’s ‘Attic.’ I mean, during the Fringe there’s comedy on until daft o’clock every night, so there’s deffinitely a market for such a slot. It cannot be denied that people laugh harder & longer & louder the more pissed they get – & the difference between the slightly sober crowd who Rick opened his night to at eight, & the one who he was winding things up to at 00:30 was markedly different.

On our walk to the Beehive, I asked Rick a few questions about how things were progressing since our last chat, in May 2017.


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Hows 2019 looking for the Scottish Comedy Festival at the Fringe?
Rick: The Scottish Comedy Festival Line-up for 2019 is looking stronger than ever, we’ve got SCF favourites like Raymond Mearns and Gary Little returning, along with some amazing new faces like the award winning Rahul Kohli and I’m particular looking forward Gav Webster bringing his cult podcast The Comedy Results to us this year. This year we’ve expanded our scope a little bit. We’ve added Nightcap as second venue, so we’re just finalising the last couple of spots, we plan to announce the full SCF line-up in next couple of weeks.

When did you decide to start late night comedy at the Beehive, & how’s it going
Rick: The Innis & Gunn Comedy Attic is the newest addition to the Scottish Comedy Circuit. We’re very much in our infancy, as we’re just four weeks old. The show is fucking crazy. Drunk acts and drunker audience members are a hell of a mix. Why do a late night gig? Basically, I fell in love with stand-up at late night Edinburgh Fringe gigs like Late & Live and Spank. These are the gigs that are the heart and soul of the festival. There’s never really been an attempt to see if something like that can exist outside of the fringe, it’s Punk Rock Comedy, a little bit edgier, anything goes but really fucking fun. We’re a month in and seems to be working, which is as much I could hope for. What Happens in the Attic, Stays in the Attic!

What is it about Edinburgh that makes it such a beacon for comedians & fans alike?
Rick: Edinburgh is amazing city, it’s relaxed, chilled and creative as hell. Comedy wise the fringe plays a big part in the reason it’s a beacon. But you can’t over look how strong the circuit is right now in Edinburgh, There’s the amazing Monkey Barrel Comedy, The Stand, Gilded Balloon and then there’s my crazy little gig in The Attic. It means that audiences can go an see a variety of top acts and have choices on the type of nights they want.


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Harry Garrison

Rick was soon back on stage weaving his magic – it was a bit crazy actually; Sully opened, with Gareth Waugh in the middle, & guitar-wielding Harry Garrison to finish. The crowd was banterery and responsive & the whole near sold-out gig was really interactive. It was like the Monkey Barrel gig but turned up to 13. Really good fun. An audience with no limits, including quite a lot of banter with a nurse about the time she found a pen, a crisp packet and a dead bird in an old woman’s vagina! You had to be there, & I recommend that you do. Nice one Rick & keep up the good work!

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LINKS

www.thecomedyattic.co.uk

www.monkeybarrelcomedy.com

www.scottishcomedyfestival.com

An Interview with Andrew White

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Bubbling with the comedy ebullience of youth, Andrew White is taking his teenage wisdom on the road… 


Hello Andrew, so first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Surrey but grew up in Bournemouth where a lot of my family is. Then, for the last ten years I’ve been just outside of Salisbury for schooling reasons. It’s a really lovely area, but nothing ever happens (Russian business aside). On the one hand it means I’ve managed to build a circuit of local gigs without much competition, but on the other hand, most other events are at least an hour away.

When did you first realise you were funny?
When I was cocky little fearless 15 year old. I got up on stage thinking I was hilarious. Ever since, though, it’s just been a spiral into self-doubt and imposter’s syndrome. If I hadn’t started then, I don’t think current me would give comedy a go.

How did you get into performing comedy?
There was a youth performance open mic in Salisbury and I wen along to try out doing some jokes. I’d always loved stand-up and really wanted to do the same as what I watched on TV. As any other comedian would’ve already guessed, the open mic was all music acts and it was a strange environment to tell jokes. Luckily, the woman running it (Flo) was involved in comedy through improv and steered me towards proper comedy environments.

If your style was a soup, what would be the ingredients?
Minestrone in a sieve. There’s a lot going on, and not all of it works for me, but I’m slowly picking out the best ingredients and trying new ones to form the most satisfying soup.

What are the creative processes behind writing your material?
A lot of the time an initial idea comes to me whilst thinking random thoughts to myself. A certain train of thought may make me smile, and then I’ll try and hear myself saying it on stage, and if it sounds workable I’ll write it down. Then development comes from a mix of sitting and writing out, talking it through in my head, and finally saying it aloud at a new material night. Occasionally I’ll write with another comic called Sunjai Arif as well, that outside view on material is always useful, plus he’s very funny!

As a post-Millennial, do you find that comedy is changing, is the material of older comics still relevant?
Comedy is definitely changing, and for the better I think. It’s becoming a much more creative and exciting art form. There’s a focus on originality & well written material, whilst cheap punchlines / premises are rightly being snubbed by industry and audience alike. The material of older comics’ is definitely still relevant, provided it’s funny, engaging, and original. That has nothing to do with age though, that’s just about the calibre of the comedian. In fact, it’s often younger comedians who will deliver “irrelevant” material, just because they’ve not learned that it won’t fly anymore. I could list dozens of older comics who are some of the funniest and most original acts about, but I think the praise would be somewhat tainted with me calling them “older comics”!

What is your ideal Sunday afternoon?
A game of football with friends, and then home to a light dinner, hot bath, and a film.

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Can you tell us about the show?
It is all about me wanting to quit stand-up and how university will be better for me. I’m currently on my gap year doing comedy full time, but it’s not everything I imagined it to be, and after one particularly awful gig, I decided that would be that. The show follows on from the gig looking at the benefits of higher education, and asking how much value I could add to the stand-up world anyway. There is some lingering lust for comedy that shines through though, and it becomes more difficult a decision than I first thought…

Where did you get the idea for Retirement Tour, & is the reality realising your original vision?
I had the idea during Edinburgh last year, but it was mainly a provocative joke title. Since then it has changed massively and I’m actually torn between the two paths in real life. From a stupid joke idea, it’s become a very real, very honest, and very soul-bearing show. I’m still living the narrative of it as well, so it’s quite unique – you get to see the decision making evolve in real time alongside my genuine life.

If this is your last year as a comedian – & The Mumble hopes its not, by the way – what the hell are you gonna do instead?
If it is (which it may well be), I’d go to University to study Linguistics. From there, career paths are very varied – speech therapy, marketing, working with the police, all sorts! I may even end up in an entirely unrelated profession. I guess the short answer is, I don’t have a clue!

What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
After Edinburgh, I’ll probably be starting at Cardiff University. I’m not 100% though. For now, I’m focusing on the show and making it as good as it can be.


Retirement Tour

BLT - Andrew White

Bath: March 27 @ St James’ Wine Vaults
Swindon: April 9 @ The Victoria
Bournemouth: May 3 @ Bournemouth Little Theatre
Brighton: May 4 @ The Caxton Arms
Liverpool: July 1 @ Hot Water Comedy Club, Seel St
Shaftesbury: July 6 @ Shaftesbury Arts Centre
Edinburgh: August 2-25 @ The Mash House, Cask Room

www.standupandrew.com

Glasgow’s Glee

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Glee Club, Glasgow
March 1st, 2019


As a long-time fan of Glasgow’s stand-up scene, I found myself pleasantly surprised when I attended the Friday Night Comedy show at the city’s recently opened venue The Glee Club. An established stand-up staple in Birmingham, Cardiff and Oxford, The Glee Club’s expansion to Glasgow provides an exciting opportunity that bridges the gap between the more intimate comic experiences exemplified by The Stand Comedy Club and larger, theatrical venues, a point made by legendary Glasgow comic Gary Little. Between generous pitchers of beer and snacking on my mate’s plate of nachos, I found the overall experience pretty impressive.

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Scott Gibson
The March 1st show was hosted by the effortlessly hilarious Scott Gibson, and featured (in sequential order) Rosco McLelland, Eleanor Tiernan and Ben Norris. Having seen Gibson killing it numerous times at The Stand, I found him to be a brilliant host, who masterfully whipped the crowd into a fury before each act with his grounded, self-deprecating comic wit. Gibson’s confident, reassuring demeanour also helped to remind his audience to be respectful to the incoming acts, while containing the enthusiasm of some rowdier elements of the show’s audience, a disciplinary edge that I’ve found unfortunately to be lost on many hosts. While hardly an easy task in such a large venue, Gibson exuded an excellent energy that continually drew the crowd in.

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Rosco McLelland gave an energetic performance as the show’s opener, but his material paled in comparison to the elegance of Tiernan’s act and the vibrancy that Norris projected as the show’s headliner. Having seen McLelland do brilliantly in smaller rooms like The Stand, I felt his lukewarm performance was perhaps partly due to the sheer size of The Glee Club, but also possibly a natural reaction as a performer getting used to a new space. As a pathway between low-ceiling stand-up rooms and Apollo-like theatre spaces, I couldn’t help but feel that it’ll be harder for subtler acts to project their acts at The Glee Club as effectively as headliner performers. Showing moments of great comic insight, perhaps McLelland will feel more settled next time around.

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Eleanor Tiernan
Reflecting on the show’s final two acts, Eleanor Tiernan and Ben Norris dazzled the audience with their performances. In her effortless dalliance between more observational moments and socio-political commentary, she peppered her act with questions over the MeToo Movement, the difficulty of having a vagina (which she brilliantly compares to a piece of 1980s machinery that works, but is always leaking when you don’t expect it), and the role that women play in promoting a more nuanced understanding of female identity. While I have a particular leaning towards more socio-political comics, I have to say that, even in its lighter moments, Tiernan’s act was a delight to watch. Her appearance at Friday Night Comedy clearly illustrated her enviable talent as a headliner comic, and I really hope to see her again.

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Ben Norris
As the show’s main headliner, Ben Norris’ explosive stand-up routine made for a fantastic finish to the night, brimming with intelligent and penetrative observations on British culture and life as a father. Weaving his material with some brilliant moments of crowd-work, his deliciously confident, likeable energy lifted the show to new heights, and made for some fantastic moments of crowd-work with the crowd, particularly when he found himself struggling to understand sections of his predominantly Glaswegian audience. In one brilliant moment, after failing to understand a woman’s name in the front row (referencing her as “Laun” instead of “Lauren”), he developed this incomprehension into a clever joke on how much easier life must be in Glasgow when you just remove the middle of each word. Bringing a rock-star dynamism to the venue, Norris truly shone as the show’s headliner.


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Main Stage at Friday Night Comedy

Reviewing the club more broadly, one major strength I think The Glee Club will bring to the Glasgow comedy scene is its employment of security staff. Having seen numerous shows ruined beyond belief by hecklers, their subtle presence in the backdrop of the audience was a very welcome addition. I also felt that the show’s provision of food and pitchers balances well with the needs of the stand-up performances and in avoiding any possible disturbance it could cause to the shows. While I typically view the inclusion of food at a stand-up venue as a poor sign of the show’s management – a profit over performance indicator – The Glee Club pulls it off well, ensuring that people can order food and drinks at the bar while avoiding any tab system that could disrupt the flow of the acts while the food is being delivered. However, a small criticism I’d make about it would be the near-deafening preamble music played between the show’s breaks. Lasting between two-to-three minutes, the music was like a mixture between 1970s cinema advertising and the kind of thing that Michael Bay would use as the score for a space shoot-em-up. Rather than getting me pumped for the next act, it just left me irritated.

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Overall however, Friday Night Comedy was an excellent showcasing of The Glee Club’s potential as a Glasgow stand-up venue. The playhouse size of the club offers the potential to accommodate a market between smaller and larger venues, and with that, to expand the range of opportunities for both audiences and performers. As comic Geoff Norcott commented on The Glee Club’s launch in Glasgow, the “showbiz staging” of the club gives it a certain cultural and commercial credit that makes it stand out from other arenas, noting, “it’s the one you invite the in-laws to if you want to convince them you’re doing alright.’ While I’ve noted that there are some negatives when compared with smaller venues, its positive reputation among British comics and audiences places The Glee Club in an enviable position to build a prominent platform for professional shows. I feel that as Friday Night Comedy continues, it will continue to tighten its line-up in a similar way to The Stand, and in doing so, will mark itself as an increasingly important comic hub in Glasgow.

James Nixon