Tuesday, January 26

Interview: Katy Brand

- June 19, 2017


After ‘Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show’, a novel, appearing in the likes of Peep Show, Mapp And Lucia, and Walking On Sunshine, Ms B is telling now her own stories live on stage. Victoria Nangle finds out more

Hi Katy, how are you doing on this fine day?
It is a fine day – a bright spring day, in fact, which is my favourite kind of day. You can walk around in the sun and yet not pour with sweat – it’s the kind of day where everyone looks well lit, as if by an Oscar-winning cinematographer.

How did writing your novel Brenda Monk Is Funny (about a stand up comic) change your own relationship with live performance?
It reminded me how free you can be as a live performer – you are in total control, if you want to be. In TV or film, anything you write has to go through 15 people, who all give notes. When you perform live, you just say, ‘I’m going to do this’, and then you do it. It is exhilarating. On a more practical note, doing a promotional tour for the book was the first time I had been on-stage as ‘myself’ and I enjoyed it, and that gave me the confidence to try stand-up (rather than sketches), and so, here I am!

What made you return last year with this personal storytelling show, having already become well known and respected for your comedy characters?
Well, as I said, the book tour was a big part of it – I realised I could perform live in a way I found more spontaneous, relaxed and free than sketch comedy. And also, crucially, I had an idea for a show that I felt would work, and that is half the battle – I had stories to tell, and I thought they were interesting and funny stories. I also felt there was something relevant about talking about religious fundamentalism. So I guess the stars aligned in that way they occasionally do. It felt right.

Was the live experience how you’d remembered it?
Yes, although the performance style was different, the actual experience was the same, and all the things I learned over the many gigs I did as a character comedian were still applicable. That feeling of flying when it’s going well never gets old….

If I can’t see anyone, I might as well be on TV

What makes I Was A Teenage Christian more suitable for theatres, as opposed to the arena-sized venues of Katy Brand’s Big Ass Tour?
I have always preferred smaller venues to perform in – I like the audience to feel close, and I like to be able to see people from the stage. I find the intimacy of it more satisfying – it becomes a proper shared experience, which for me is part of the point of live shows. If I can’t see anyone, I might as well be on TV.

What would you like to offer as an alternative to becoming a teenage Christian to 13-year-old girls out for a bit of a personal epitome, these days?
I don’t think being a Christian is the end of the world (even though all you want as a Christian is the end of the world…) – there were positive things about it – I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t get pregnant at 15, I had people around me who offered support. All that stuff is good. But I think if you are curious about the world and want a sense of purpose, there are other things you can set your mind to – read the top 100 books by women authors, learn everything you can about space, become a brilliant footballer. Really, it’s about finding a purpose, and finding your people. It doesn’t have to involve weird socially conservative dogma – that’s the bad bit of Christianity….

You seem to be a bit of a creative adventurer – a lot of the best people are – with Let’s Dance For Sports Relief (thank you for your Beyoncé), Strictly Come Dancing, BBC Shakespeare… as well as writing, performing and acting. What burning ambitions do you still harbour?
I have tried lots of things because I have been curious about what I really want to do – where I feel creatively at home. I loved writing my book, I’m really enjoying doing hour long stand-up shows. But I think what I would love is to write and direct a film at some point.

Would you ever take part in any more reality/challenge television programmes – and if so, which ones?
Never say never. There are a few that I am highly unlikely to ever do, but new ones are invented all the time – if they do one about celebrities eating crisps, I’m in. I’m a champion crisp eater.

What is your secret to five minutes of happiness?
The smell of coconut oil on hot skin under a tropical sun, with nothing to do and nobody to please but myself.

Katy Brand: I Was A Teenage Christian, The Old Market, Saturday 24 June 2017; 8pm; £14/12, theoldmarket.com

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