As seen on Live from the BBC, Live from the Comedy Store, The Russell Howard Hour and Live at the Apollo. Fern Brady is one of the UK’s hottest comedy stars. Known for being totally unique and completely fearless, her new show will tackle sexuality, feminism, power, Brexit, Britishness, Scottishness and nationality all with her caustic wit, exceptional writing and electric stage craft. Fern Brady spoke with The Fountain, this time about her new show, Power and Chaos, and her plans for August.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how excited are you?
I usually really dread the Fringe as I’ve never finished the show the week I arrive so the first week is just bombing and crying afterwards. But I’m excited this year as I’ve already toured the show in Australia, so I’m a bit ahead of schedule compared to the last three shows.
TF: Your show certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
It’s largely about power dynamics between men and women. I believe the brochure description says it’s about Brexit, but to be honest with you I always have to give the show a vague title months before I’ve written it and when I had to send the description for the brochure I thought ‘maybe it’ll be about Brexit’. Well it isn’t. I’m always described as blunt, honest, forthright and worst of all “feisty” which I don’t think I’d be described as if I was a guy. So, I started thinking about that and how much women are unnaturally socialised to be polite and nice and what the consequences of that are.
Since my last Fringe show, I’ve went from never travelling at all to performing all over the world in about ten different countries. Another show I did was made into an album in America and was received well and it made me realise I didn’t have to change the way I do comedy, as people like the way I am already. I also was inspired from seeing a lot of Australian and American women’s shows last year and they’re way more direct in saying what they want to say. I’d say Scottish women are more direct as well, there’s less bullsh**ting. In England they have a history of funny women having to couch everything in fake niceties and be quite sweet in order to get their message across and I just can’t be that way. Luckily the latest wave of feminism along with a lot of the discussions around #metoo and harassment is questioning all that and the salami-slicing of women’s bodily autonomy in America means more women are starting to wonder whether we should be so nice anymore.
TF: And what drove the project, where do your influences lie?
I was feeling quite bored and stuck with my stand-up last year, then went to Melbourne and saw Rose Matafeo and Becky Lucas’ shows and started to feel really excited about getting a new show ready. They just are two women who’re a bit younger than me and have zero self-doubt about saying exactly what they want to say onstage. So many of my early years in stand-up involved apologising for being a woman, NEVER doing period jokes (cause that’s apparently all we do even though that’s an utter myth and why shouldn’t we talk about something that happens every month) or dressing like a woman or saying anything that would indicate I was a woman too much.
When I started, I loved comics like Doug Stanhope and Jim Jefferies for their delivery, but they were/still are misogynists. Luckily since then acts like Katherine Ryan and Sara Pascoe have become huge. When I started, I seriously underestimated how important it is to see comedians who look like you doing stand up and those two have had a profound effect in how many young women see stand-up as a viable career. I also love American acts like Liza Treyger, Emmy Blotnick (both of them are coming to Edinburgh this year!), Chelsea Peretti, Natasha Leggero, Tig Notaro, Michelle Woolf.
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
I always see London acts say ‘eat vegetables as it’s so hard in Edinburgh’ like they f**king invented salad and it’s always the folk that I’ve never seen eat a salad before and they’re blaming Scotland for the fact they’re fat alcoholics all year round. So aye, eat vegetables – it can be hard in Edinburgh but there’s these places called Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Waitrose and you can buy them there. I live a very monastic, disciplined existence at the Fringe that I wish I could replicate all year round. I get up early, drink hot water with lemon in it, eat a diet largely consisting of berries and seeds and oats, sleep as much as possible then spend all of September on drugs. The Fringe can be overwhelming as you’re surrounded by absolute psychopaths all month so I do this thing called loving kindness meditation every day in an effort to feel compassion for my enemies or at least not fantasise about their violent deaths. It works a bit.
Quite a lot of performers will tell you the same tips – go up Arthurs Seat, go to Portobello beach – except you’ll go and every other idiot will be there trying to destress so it’s best to just stay in the house at all times outside of show time.
Personally, I like to switch off in Edinburgh by watching documentaries about other performers under pressure going nuts. The recent Avicii documentary is very good for this along with the Amy Winehouse one which I have seen ten million times now. Me and the comedian Alison Spittle had the best time one Fringe watching Pop Stars: The Reunion, which is basically a show where you find out everyone from Bewitched and Five had massive nervous breakdowns and all hate each other.
TF: And what are your future plans, beyond the Fringe?
I want to be a millionaire and go to a masked orgy just for rich people. Oh but also should probably mention I’m doing a big tour round the UK and the bits of Europe still in the EU in Autumn and that includes dates in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Arbroath. I’m also entering my fourth year of saying I have a podcast when I don’t.
You can see Fern Brady: Power and Control at Monkey Barrel from 1st-25th August at 6pm. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com