Comedian Katy Brand has returned to live comedy and booked herself a stage for a month in Edinburgh to talk about those seven years when she was a teenage Christian. We asked her some questions.
How is the show feeling?
I am feeling very excited about the show; I have done a fair few previews and each one has been quite different. It has been really good for me to play a range of venues and times too, as I have been away from live comedy for a while.
It’s now in a shape I like, which is structured and written, but with plenty of room for spontaneity on the night so I can still try new things as they come up.
When did you decide to return to the Fringe?
Last autumn. To be honest, I never thought I would do an Edinburgh show again, and then I had this idea to talk about my teenage Christian years and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Edinburgh felt like the right place to do it, so I sent a few emails round to see if it was of interest, and the response was good so it took on its own momentum.
There was an ‘oh shit, I’m really doing this’ moment back in March, but I like that – it’s good to commit to things and then they sort of have to happen!
How come you’ve been away from the place for so long?
I guess I couldn’t find an idea that I felt would suit the Festival, and I didn’t want to go up for the sake of it. There has been so much going on over the past decade or so, and I couldn’t make enough time to do it justice.
I don’t think Edinburgh is something I could do casually or on a whim, so in a way I have been waiting for the right time and the right idea, and this year it seemed to come together.
“I still like Jesus, but I’m not in love with him anymore. I was a massive, massive dick.”
What are your favourite things about Edinburgh in August?
I love going for a wander around the book festival site, which is so tranquil and relaxed. I also love the camaraderie between comedians – that sense of everyone being on a level, mucking in together. I have missed that.
Do you have Fringe survival techniques?
I think it is very important to avoid becoming completely nocturnal. There is a Kenyan saying I was told once: ‘In the night, a rock becomes an elephant,’ i.e. something quite innocuous and innocent can seem frightening and intimidating when you are tired and disoriented in the middle of the night.
A few big nights out are essential, of course, but I think that 7am becoming your normal bedtime by week three can make you crazy. Sleep is the best way to keep a sense of proportion.
Normality is but a train ride away and there are people in other parts of the country who neither know nor care how your show is selling, and it can be a blessed relief to remember that!
Have you been planning your debut standup show for a while?
No not really – it’s come as a bit of a surprise to me. I did my first preview and thought, “Oh, I don’t even know whether I prefer the mic in the stand or out of it,” because when I was performing sketches I tended to use a radio mic so my hands were free and I could move around or dance, or change costumes etc. I am learning as I go – and I’m really enjoying it.
Will it be a big change for you in comparison with your previous shows?
Yes definitely: I wanted a way of performing that was calmer, freer and more spontaneous. I still like to be prepared, and have that sense that I have written something, but just standing on stage and talking as myself is not something I have done a lot of.
I have been interviewed on stage before, but this time I am alone. COMPLETELY ALONE! Apart from the audience of course… I hope.
“The last Edinburgh show I did was at 11pm in a tiny cave, and by the time my show came on, the sweat of previous audiences had condensed on the ceiling and would rain down on my audience as a fine mist.”
Tell us a bit about it, won’t you?
It’s the story of my seven years as a fundamentalist Christian, from ages 13 to 20. I converted to Christianity without any prompting from my parents, who are not churchgoers, and just threw myself into it.
I was singing in the band, converting school friends and teachers, preaching in the local shopping centre, casting out demons and generally showing off for Jesus. Oh, and the vicar hated me.
It was a hell of a ride. I still like Jesus, but I’m not in love with him anymore. I was a massive, massive dick.
Is this the first time you’ve done material about your real life?
Broadly speaking, yes. It’s certainly the first time I have based an entire show around things that have directly happened to me. Some of my sketches had elements of my life and experiences in them, but that was one stage removed.
This is just me, on stage, naked except for my stories. Well, not actually naked. I mean, figuratively. I will wear clothes, unless it is very hot – you know how these Edinburgh venues can get.
The last Edinburgh show I did was at 11pm in a tiny cave, and by the time my show came on, the sweat of previous audiences had condensed on the ceiling and would rain down on my audience as a fine mist. Lovely.
Did it feel like a big decision to move in this direction?
It didn’t, funnily enough. I can’t explain it; it has felt quite natural. I think I was ready for it. I think if the timing is right, sometimes even the scariest things can feel strangely familiar.
Give us five words which sum up your mood ahead of the Fringe.
Excited, coiled, grateful, surprised, ready.
Which shows are you hoping to catch while you’re up there?
I would like to see Harriet Kemsley, Bridget Christie, Gráinne Maguire, Daphne, Marcel Lucont, Spank!, Katherine Ryan, Alison Spittle. And many others.
Do you have plans for a tour once your Fringe run is finished?
I hope so…
Katy Brand: I Was a Teenage Christian is at the Pleasance Courtyard from 9-14 and 16-29 August. Get tickets here.
Read our round-up of where to catch top Standard Issue contributors at this year’s Fringe here and here.
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