How has this year’s Fringe been for you? It seems to have been a success,
given your nomination for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award…
I feel like I’ve got away with it, you know? Those idiots – they bloody bought it! No, I feel good. D’you know what, I came to the conclusion three days ago that, even if I have a bad Edinburgh, I still really, really love coming here.
What constitutes “a bad Edinburgh”?
Having a show that you don’t have complete faith in. Also it’s not that I read reviews any more, but I used to search for my name on the internet and stuff, and a bad review would ruin me.
What do you think has struck a chord with people about your show (The
Future Is Another Place) this year?
I felt really out on a limb writing it. It’s just straight stand-up and I normally have props and stuff, but this is saying very specifically what I feel and what my opinions are on certain things. So I’d like to think it’s because it’s from the heart, it’s that element of going out on a limb that people have responded to.
Also, I guess there are lots of other people who are really angry about the government, which is simultaneously comforting and depressing. I think this year there have been loads of political shows on the Fringe, like Ben Brailsford, who is one of the Fortnum & Mason 145, and Political Animal. So there’s definitely a contingent. I’d like to think that more people are talking about politics now.
What do you like about the experience of Edinburgh?
Oh God, so much, I don’t even know where to begin. The first time I came to the festival was in 1999. I was 17 and I was doing the BBC New Comedy Awards – which I won [laughs] – and part of the prize was a week’s stay in this big flat with all the other finalists. It completely blew my mind, I’d never experienced anything like it. The festival was just so manic and I fell in love with it.
It’s been such a big part of my life ever since – every year I live here for a month and so cumulatively I’ve spent almost a year of my life in Edinburgh. Everywhere I go, I’ve got different memories, you know?
The city’s so romantic and beautiful and exciting, then there’s the fact that all of your friends are here, trying to do their best work and step up to the plate – I find that really healthy. All through the year my mates are touring in Cardiff or wherever, and I’m in Newcastle, so I never see them. Then up here it’s like, “Do you want to meet up for coffee? Do you want to go for lunch?” Plus I still have a bit of a crush on the Scots in general. I feel that Scotland is better than England, empirically.
So it’s nice to come up here and pretend that I live here, when in fact I do not.
What have been your favourite memories of the Fringe?
Oh, every year there’s something great. In the last couple of years I’ve been swimming in the sea at Portobello, which makes me feel so happy. For the last four years I’ve been doing gigs up Arthur’s Seat and people love that because it’s silly.
I once did a gig in someone’s living room because they broke their leg, so we all went to their living room to perform for them and it was one of the best experiences of my life. What else? The first year I came up I had no expectations and I saw a show by Count Arthur Strong which… well, I’d never seen comedy like it and it blew my tiny teenage mind. I couldn’t breathe for laughing.
Then in 2001 I saw Flight of the Conchords about ten times. I was a student and it was their first year up at the Fringe, and nobody would go to their show apart from me and my friends, every night. It’s everything, it’s the social aspect, it’s performing, it’s seeing other shows and it’s also just being in a really cool city full of cool shit. I’m so boring, I bet everyone says this. And that’s ‘cos everyone’s right. It gives my life structure and meaning to have the Edinburgh Festival in it. Not to put too much pressure on it, but that’s the truth.