Let’s kick off with some home truths, shall we. I am new to this. I am not an experienced comedy blogger. I’m not a journalist, and although I suppose I could class myself as a professional writer, my former career in the Civil Service mainly consisted of penning soothing responses to Members of Parliament who were pissed off that we’d lost their constituent’s passport. So when I set up this blog I was largely making it up as I went along. Blogging and blagging, if you will.
So when I was very kindly granted access to chat to the stellar line-up of the recent Good Eggs charity night, I was convinced that I could blag my way through and get at least a couple of interesting bits of material. I was familiar with most of the acts, in fact some of them I’d seen multiple times, read their Guardian articles and listened to them being interviewed. I did not feel unprepared.
With the notable exception of the show’s opener, Tash Demetriou, who (although I’ve heard of her) I’ve never seen and therefore planned to strategically avoid. However, fate was upstairs having a good laugh at me and so naturally Tash is the very first person I bump into who very kindly agrees to have a chat with me.
Just to top off my nervousness, Tash is disarmingly beautiful. I could not draw my eyes away from those glowing cheekbones, despite the fact that only a few minutes earlier she’d been spectacularly bedecked as a giant slice of pizza.
Jay Jay: Let’s start with the service station question.
Tash Demetriou: I think Milton Keynes, because I used to be in a sketch group called Oyster Eyes, and and Liam [Stewart, fellow member] used to work there and tell so many stories about having sex with women in the freezer. It’s anecdotally a very special place for me. And it’s a good distance out of London for a stop and a wee. And some chips.
JJ: So you’re not going up to Edinburgh this year?
TD: No. I normally work with Ellie White, my best friend, my lover, has been in a West End show, and I didn’t have time to write a new set, and I’d have to do it by myself. Normally we do lots of stuff together, we do a night at the Moth Club with my brother Jamie [Demetriou] too, once a month.
JJ: Whereabouts is that?
TD: East London [Hackney].
At this point I have to break in to admit to Tash that I live in Camden and rarely venture further out of my bunker than a two mile radius of Regent’s Park; in fact I realise that I’m a bit of a lazy comedy goer. I then spend a whole five minutes extolling to Tash the virtues of the Bill Murray in Islington so perhaps she can tempt me East and I can lure her North.
JJ: What’s your favourite room to play?
TD: Probably the Moth Club – it’s an old working men’s club, you’re right near the audience, it’s always full of lovely East London liberal happy people who want to laugh. I like rooms where you’re really close to the audience – me and Ellie did our show in Edinburgh at a place called the Banshee Labyrinth, and it was the cinema room, and it was just tiny and so lovely.
JJ: You mention having East London lefty audience who want to laugh, is knowing that your audience is on your side important to your act?
TD: Obviously I’m a woman, and I’m not like a classic standup, I don’t tell straight jokes; for some people that’s their bag, but for me, lovely, nice, drunk young people are my ideal audience. They seem to find shit characters and bad jokes the best!
Next on my list of people to bother is the effervescent Nish Kumar, and I do feel at least a little more prepared for this one, since I saw Nish about seventeen times during April’s Machyllneth Comedy Festival. When I tell him this he laughs and admits that he was pretty ubiquitous during the festival. When he wasn’t on stage, he could often be seen lurking in the wings or, more likely, heard by his ridiculous hyena-laugh.
JJ: What’s your favourite service station?
Nish Kumar: I’m a slightly tricky case, because I don’t drive, so I take the train everywhere.
JJ: Ah! In that case, whats your favourite station cafe?
NK: I try and avoid Pumpkin, because they really bum me out. My favourite station is Birmingham New Street! It’s super fancy, and the Pret stays open until midnight, and you can get a late train back from Birmingham to London.
JJ: Thanks! Strong answer. Are all comics insufferable egomaniacs?
NK: Yes, only because all people are insufferable egomaniacs…comedians are just more honest about it than most people. I’d say about 95% of people I know are, on some level, insufferable egomaniacs, and it’s just a question of how you moderate that.
I think that with comics, it’s just that you’ve found an outlet for your insufferable egomania. If we we’re doing comedy, we’d be the annoying person at work…
JJ: Like Colin Hunt?
NK: Yeah! Absolutely.
JJ: So you just got a TV show with the Daily Mash…despite TV production companies generally being more risk averse – for instance I grew up with Lee & Herring’s This Morning with Richard Not Judy, which would never get commissioned nowadays – the comedy industry is still thriving. There’s a lot more acts coming through, Edinburgh is massive compared to what it used to be…so is TV the be all and end all for comedy?
NK: I don’t know if anything’s the be all and end all…all you try and do is get better and better, and do more and more interesting stuff, but there isn’t really like an end goal. TV is great for growing a live audience.
JJ: But for instance, I’ve heard comics like John Robins talk about how important getting on Mock the Week is…
NK: Yeah, stuff like that is really massive.
JJ: Massive in terms of status, or in terms of progression in the industry?
NK: It’s still to do with growing a live audience. It just really helps you fast track that process. All my ambition is ever geared towards standup.
JJ: Is that the endgame for you, then, for instance someone like Elis [James] has moved away from standup into broadcasting and acting.
NK: Elis is a great actor, though. I don’t really have transferable skills!
JJ: I think you’re one of the most natural standups I’ve ever seen…when I saw you do that show at Mach [Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout The Words Real Loud] it was like you’d never written or rehearsed it…like you came in and spoke off the top of your head for an hour…
NK: Oh thats good…ironically, [looking that effortless] really takes a huge amount of work! I can’t really act so I only have standup…the cool thing about doing TV is that is brings your work to a much wider audience.
In terms of the restrictions, the problem that we’re having at the moment is that particularly the BBC is under scrutiny for what it’s putting out, over the last few years it’s felt like it’s under a huge amount of pressure. But I think things are slightly turning around, Frankie Boyle’s doing a BBC2 show, it does feel like things are loosening up slightly.
Also I think people are realising that there is a specific campaign against the BBC; Sachsgate caused there to be a lot of scrutiny on the corporation, and I think hopefully you’ll see a loosening up of that over the next few years, they’re commissioning a lot of satire…it’s an exciting time.
After the show, I catch up with Lou Sanders for a quick word. I’ve seen Lou a lot live, and I think she’s a really interesting performer. The majority of times I’ve seen her have been works in progress, and I’ve only ever really seen one fully-formed show, but Lou’s careless delivery means you’re never quite sure if what you’re seeing is meticulously rehearsed or just being casually tried out. I like her a lot, and I also know a little of her backstory through interviews and podcasts.
JJ: So Lou, what’s your favourite service station?
Lou Sanders: I don’t know any of them! I get driven, and I don’t memorise road names because I have better things to do! I like M&S because you can get something healthy. And a big bottle of water.
JJ: I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the article you wrote for the Guardian about your relationship with alcohol. It was very familiar to me, the experience of getting fucked by men when you’re so pissed you don’t know what you’re doing.
LS: Yeah, a horrible business. I don’t think it’s ideal, and we need to get into a time when that doesn’t happen…
JJ: It needs to become unacceptable, and the whole issue of consent needs to be raised. I liked the way that you were honest about what actually happened, because people don’t admit that this is what happens to young women.
LS: We all have to learn from our mistakes, we have to know where we’re going wrong but the men need to know where they’re going wrong as well.
JJ: On the wider issue of booze, what’s it like working in an industry where alcohol is such a big part of it?
LS: It’s fine, once you’ve made the decision. So many times before I’ve sort of half made the decision, but not committed to it, or thought ‘well I’ll just see how it goes’, but once you click that switch and think ‘no, I just don’t drink’, you’re fine. Once you’re resolute on anything…there’s temptation with everything, everywhere…how do you be faithful, how do you not eat all the cakes…?
JJ: But in many ways [alcohol in comedy] is a cultural thing.
LS: I think more and more people are not drinking, actually, so it’s getting easier.
JJ: A lot of comics say as a point of good practice that they won’t have a drink before they perform.
LS: Yeah, and lots of us are getting older and so aren’t drinking as much – and actually the younger kids aren’t drinking as much as they were, not in the way that we did when we were younger.
JJ: Can we talk about FUBAR radio? What are your thoughts, looking back? [Lou co-presented a show with Richard Herring at the station’s inception].
LS: It was fine, it was just a muckabout show, I wasn’t really being paid anything, so it was just a chance to try stupid things, it was fine.
JJ: What about the station itself…when you and Richard did the show, I tweeted them and said that I was really pissed off that you weren’t put on the bill with him…
LS: It was his show, to be fair.
JJ: Yeah, but there were fuck all women on that station full stop. A bunch of blokes started a comedy station and stuck another bunch of blokes on it.
LS: Yeah, I mean his [the creator’s] vision wasn’t the same as lots of the artists, he was wanting to get headline-grabbing people like John Gaunt…it happens everywhere. Katie Hopkins is not short of work, because there’s a demand for that. Nothing against him, just different visions. Quite depressing, but still.
But I loved working with Rich…
JJ: Do you still see him like your uncle [Herring once described their relationship as ‘avuncular’]?
LS: I love him.
And with that, my whirlwind of interviews ends – I don’t know about the acts, but I’m bloody exhausted.