Tell us about you/your act.
I mean my act is mainly autobiographical, I talk about what it was like growing up as a bisexual atheist in a Jehovah’s Witness family. People were always asking me questions about it before I even did comedy, particularly the JW thing. So I figured, it’d be silly not to start my first bits with that, if it’s what people generally find interesting. And the bisexual material fits so well with it because like most other religions, JWs are anti-LGBT.
How did you get into comedy?
It’s something I’ve wanted to try since I was a teenager, but I didn’t actually push myself to do it until I had a mental breakdown at age 25. I went into a deep depression and figured that the only way I’d force myself out of it is if I spent money on a non-refundable comedy course. I’m tight-fisted so I would never have not attended classes I’d paid for.
Not only did it get me out the house every Saturday but I was around so many talented people who were all so welcoming. I think discovering a new skill that I didn’t suck at was what gave me perseverance. You could say that comedy came from my quarter-life crisis. They’re becoming quite common with millennials since our economy got destroyed…
The course was the Frog & Bucket course by the way, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?
To be completely honest, it was my first ever gig. The course showcase.
I’d never written anything before, so when I wrote my first set, every joke i was like “Yeah, that’ll do I guess?” I did not expect anybody to laugh at all, so when the audience did, and at times there were even applause breaks… I kind of reacted like I was being interrupted, because I hadn’t prepared to leave any gaps for laughter!
All my friends were there too which was great, especially because I inspired one of them to do stand up themselves and now they’re on the circuit doing gigs.
Ultimately, it was the night I realised I didn’t suck at something that I REALLY didn’t want to suck at!
But then, that’s not to say you can’t become great at something if you bomb the first time. So many great comedians out there are proof of that.
You talk about your mental health stage. What made you decide to discuss such personal things in your act?
I’ve always enjoyed joking about stuff that’s considered uncomfortable and I especially love the irony in making funny stories out of quite serious circumstances. I feel like it’s also a form of defiance in a way. That no matter how bad things get, there’s always great material in there for the future. It’s a way of moving forward.
How do you feel comedy can help reduce stigma around mental health?
You’re educating people about what it’s like, in a way that people will be prepared to listen. You’re telling stories and making them laugh, you’re not lecturing them. Also, you’ll find that some audience members will go off and talk about MH with their friends, after they ask how the gig they watched went.
I think we need to talk and joke about the subject more and that’s how it’s normalised. When someone has a cast on their leg, they’ll happily tell you the whole story of how they broke it, because there’s no stigma to having a broken leg. The same attitude should apply for mental illness.
Is it easier talking about your sexuality to rooms full of strangers than it was to your parents?
Of course it’s easier talking about it to strangers, I don’t care about them shunning me!
How do your parents feel about your comedy career?
They’re interested in it, but not enough to want to come watch me. Just the way I like it.
What’s your favourite thing about working in comedy?
The fact that it’s not really a huge transition from being a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. You travel to different areas, talk to strangers about your beliefs and they laugh at you.
Who is your favourite comedian we’ve never heard of?
It’s tough to choose just one. Ros Ballinger‘s excellent. Also, No Money in the Bank. One involves material about kink, the other is for anyone who enjoys pop punk, improvisation and laughing loudly whilst mouthing “wtf is happening?” to the person sat next to you.
Also my comedy bestie, Ash Preston. He’s the definition of an eccentric.
All acts are on at Edinburgh Fringe, I’d highly recommend checking them out.
What challenges have you faced working in comedy?
The realisation that there are a lot of comics out there that really hate open spots. Not all of them obviously, in fact not even half. Just enough for it to be an ongoing issue. They make fun of us every chance they get, for the same mistakes that probably every successful comic has made in their time. I find it so hard to comprehend, because every comic started out as an open spot. I’ve noticed that it tends to be the ones that are full time, but haven’t quite made it to the top tier. Because comedians at the top don’t need to feel threatened by newer acts entering the business.
How do you think that comedy as an industry can better address these issues?
Just for these acts to remember one of the most recognised guidelines in comedy: Don’t punch down. It’s cheap.
What appealed to you about being part of a show like Blizzard?
It features anyone who isn’t a straight white man, which is a great chance for the rest of us to get represented.
Apart from appearing at Blizzard, what have you got coming up that we should look out for?
I’ve just become a regular MC at Laughing Calves, an all female comedy open mic at Tribeca. It’s literally the baby version of Laughing Cows, both run by Hazel O’Keefe who has been supporting women in comedy since the 90s!