Sam Freeman

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Category: Interview

Interview: Josie Long

If.comeddies Best Newcomer winner and three time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Josie Long is a comedian, writer and actor. Her sixth and most recent show “Romance and Adventure” is currently touring nationally after a critically successful run at Edinburgh Festival.

What was it that motivated you to start in stand up? Was it a gradual build up, a moment of clarity or a mix of the two?

I’ve always, always wanted to be a stand up comedian since i was a little girl. i was always a bit of a show off and i loved watching comedy on TV. Then when I was 14 i tried stand up for the first time and i was pretty much hooked from then on.

Can you remember your first gig, how did it go, and was there a turning point in gigging where you had an epiphany and your comic persona came through strongly or was is present from the start of your career?

Yes, my first proper gig was upstairs at the east Dulwich tavern, which is now a kind of swanky pizzeria i think. It was a new act and new material night so there were proper comics on. I don’t remember what i said at all, it was a massive flood of adrenaline!

I feel a lot more comfortable now on stage than i did then, like i can speak about anything i feel passionate about and really have fun. I think that’s a gradual thing that comes from experience- i hope that people who come and watch my stuff feel it’s like that too though!

 Whenever anyone enters a career they start with a degree of naivety, is there anything you’d wish you’d known when starting out?

I wish I’d never ever Google searched my own name! When you first start out you’re just so excited about the prospect of people talking about your stand up that it seems like a good idea, but it is never, ever a good idea. Everything else has probably been helpful, or at the very least “an experience”.

How do you develop new material? Is it a desk-bound writing process followed by club development, through improvising ideas live that develop stronger form through performance, or a mix of the two?

I like to improvise around ideas with warm-up dates, then I’ll record what I’ve done and listen over it to try and develop my material. I also like to make a fiendishly complicated spider diagram of a show as a first step to writing one. Oh and near the end i have a lot of writing things on cue cards and then freaking out trying to organise them. I’m not very good at sitting down and writing my stand up at a computer, i like to muck around and bash it about onstage.

Who are the comedians that have inspired you and why?

Every year i get inspired at the Edinburgh fringe, i feel like it’s where people bring their best and most exciting work. My favourite show this year was Bravo Figaro! by Mark Thomas. i think Mark Thomas is constantly inspiring as a campaigning and brilliant performer who not only writes from the heart but helps change the world. Also this year i saw Claudia O Doherty, Tony Law, Pappy’s, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe and James Acaster’s shows and they were all properly inspiring in completely different ways.

Have any of them influenced your work or performance style?

I think you definitely get influenced by all of the things you like, but i like to hope it’s not in a direct way- you’d be inspired to be a braver or weirder performer, for example, by a great show.

You have a hugely broad work portfolio, from podcasts (I love Utter Shambles!)

ah thank you 🙂

and stand up to appearances on Channel 4’s Skins and Radio 4 plays: Do you have a preferred medium to work in and how do you balance all the different elements? (sorry if this question doesn’t make sense, essentially it’s about balancing work and the extent to which you chose your projects…)

No it does make sense. I think I’ll always love stand up the most as it’s direct and fast- you think of the ideas and you can perform them immediately, that’s wonderful. I like how much it can be a way of honing and finding your own voice.

What are your frustrations with comedy?

I hate how often people ask me sexist questions (btw i am SO glad you haven’t!) and it can be lonely touring a solo show as you don’t have anyone else who’s shared that same experience, but on the whole i love it!

What are your ambitions for the future?

I made a short film with a friend of mine who is a director earlier this year and I really enjoyed it, we’re hoping to send that to film festivals. I wrote it and performed in it, which for a stand up is the correct level of control freakery! We’re making another at the end of October/beginning of November which i am really looking forward to, we’re hoping to keep writing them. We’re trying to crowdfund our film here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/romance-and-adventure

And finally, who are your favourite performers to watch at the moment, who startles you with their comic ability?

Ha the people i mentioned earlier-

Claudia O Doherty’s show was so beautifully written and plotted, and performed with such an original voice that I felt in awe of her. Pappy’s show too was just so clever and full of heart. Sara Pascoe’s show was brave and completely engaging. After these shows i felt inspired but also a bit crushed at how wonderful they were.

Josie is touring throughout the UK and performing at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre on Saturday 6th October.

Best Wishes & Thank You!

Interview: Fred MacAulay

Image by Alistair Devine

Fred MacAulay is one of Scotland’s most famous comedians who has performed nationally and internationally as well as worked extensively on radio and television. Fred is touring in 2012 with his latest show, ‘Legally Bald’.

You arrived in stand-up at a relatively late age, what was it that motivated you to give it a go? Was it a gradual build up, a moment of clarity or a mix of the two?

I’d always wanted to be a stand up comic. I just didn’t know how to go about it. There were two catalysts really..the first was passing my 30th birthday and realising that a whole decade had gone past and I’d done nothing about realising my dream. the other was hearing Billy Connolly on television saying that if you thought you had a talent, and wanted to use it, then you should really do something about it!

How do you develop new material? Is it a desk-bound writing process followed by club development, through improvising ideas live that develop stronger form through performance, or a mix of the two?

I’m not great at sitting at the desk and writing good stand up, although I’m getting better at it. It’s developed by just making notes of what I think might be funny and then running it out on stage, and as you say…..letting the routines develop through improvisation. having just finished a run at Edinburgh Fringe, my set list at the end is approximately half of what it was on the first night as the routines have grown.

Who are the comedians that have inspired you and why? 

The above named Billy Connolly but also some US Comedians whose albums I bought in my twenties as my interest in comedy grew…..Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Richard Pryor…and even Rodney Dangerfield!

Have any of them influenced your work or performance style? 

I don’t think you’d see much of any of them in what I do. I’ve been told that I have an easy and relaxed style on stage……but I’m sure my heart rate is as high as anyones.

Touring a solo show can be a tough experience, during the long tours how do you maintain your excitement and motivation after having performed a show multiple times?

Simple….I love gigging and would happily do it seven nights a week.

You perform live and on television regularly, how does your preparation vary for each? 

The preparation for tv shows varies a lot…Mock The Week which I guested on a few times was pretty full on with a lot of prep. QI (two appearances) give you no information about what’s coming up. I much preferred the latter. Preparation for the live gigs also varies depending on how much new material you’re trying out.

It’s been suggested that regional variance in audiences is a bit of a myth and that venue and the experience in that venue for the audience is key as to whether they’ll be reception or hostile, to what extent do you agree with this and for you, what makes the perfect stand-up venue?

I think there are regional variances in audiences…certainly in Scotland..there’s a difference for example between Glasgow, Aberdeen or the Outer Islands. I’ve very little experience of English regional audiences, having really only worked in London until now. Maybe I can chat again after the tour! You’ll struggle to find any comics who would go far from The Stand venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Newcastle for the perfect stand up gig. But I would say that….I’m a director of the company!! I’m also a huge fan of London’s Comedy Store.

Who are the upcoming stand-ups who’ve impressed you recently?

I saw excerpts from Lloyd Langford, James Acaster, Ellis James and Seann Walsh during the Fringe and they’re all on excellent form. I also really enjoyed Diane Spencer’s show.

Whenever anyone enters a career they start with a degree of naivety, is there anything you’d wish you’d known when starting out?

I got a lot of television work pretty early on and it was really intense…..I would much rather have done fewer shows per year, spread out over a number of years, but the comics have very little say over that.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I had a lot of ambitions when I started and have done very well having achieved a lot in my career. Now, as you’ll find with people my age, the ambitions are more personal. But professionally  I really want to show audiences that I’m as funny as I ever was and ……..hopefully even funnier!

Fred is touring throughout the UK including Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival on October 7th at 8pm – Find out more at brightoncomedyfestival.com

Interview: Markus Birdman

Standup comedian Markus Birdman is performing his latest show Love, Life and Death at The Stand at Edinburgh Festival before going on to tour in 2012/13.

Was the concept of being a stand up as a career something that was a gradual realisation or did you have a moment of clarity and inspiration?

A gradual thing I think. I had been to art college and been in bands and struggling to find my feet in a creative career. A friend suggested stand up and i had a go and it seemed to gain more momentum than other creative ventures. I’m still getting away with it. I just want to live a creative life and avoid a proper job

How did this show come together? Do you write desk-bound or work up ideas improvised at gigs alongside your stronger material that can support it? 

Yes a mixture of desk bound toil and then working on that on stage in more organic way. Then those ideas go back to the desk and are worked again. So it’s a cycle for me.

The show, as a result of the material, has a strong narrative arc and seemed to resonant strongly with the audience, did you have any fears about using such personal material particularly about such an emotive subject? 

Well i think 95% of the time audiences really appreciate the openess and generosity of it and i am delighted that it resonates them. However if the audience doesn’t respond well you feel more disolutioned than you would if you just talking about your balls or Coldplay.

Who are the comedians you admire, (or have admired) and why? 

I like people like Peter Sellers and Ronnie Barker. Honestly i get more inspiration from musicians. Having said that i was really inspired by Simon Munnery’s show this year.

What are your ambitions within and beyond standup?

Pretty much to avoid ever having to get a proper job. Everything else is gravy.

Lots of comedian’s talk about a regional variation in audiences, to what extent do you agree with that and how do you manage these variations?

I don’t really agree with that. I think the most important variant is the room layout and how the audience have been treated by the people running it. If you treat people badly they usually behave in kind. And viceversa.

What was your most successful and most horrendous gigs? 

There have been many highs and many lows. And that will continue. I tend to judge in a batting average kind of way

Do you feel (as some do) that Edinburgh works as an annual comedy shop window, and how does it effect your work as a performer? 

Honestly, i have no idea how edinburgh works or what it’s supposed to be. I think you have to work out what you want from it. For me it makes me write more. There’s nothing like a deadline.

What are your feeling on the stadium performances in 2,000+ seat venues? 

I’ve only been to 2 and they were both very disappointing. Comedy is better in a more intimate envronment i think. But that would be true of any event. The more popular something is usually the less creatively interesting it is.

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