English Comedian of the Year 2016 Josh Pugh is making his Edinburgh Fringe debut with A Boy Named Pugh, just three years after first performing comedy.
He might not have performed at the Fringe yet with his own hour but already Josh has racked up an impressive number of accolades.
He won the Midland New Act of the Year in 2014 and the following year went on to win the Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2015 and the Nottingham Comedy Festival New Act of the Year Award 2015 before going on to win the Midland New Act of the Year for a second year. In 2016 he came third in the NATYS (formerly Hackney New Empire Comedian of the Year) before going on to win English Comedian of the Year 2016.
So what is his debut all about and how has he found the writing process?
Here’s what Josh had to say when I caught up with him…
So this is your first Edinburgh Fringe…
Yes, first one. I went a couple of years ago for two weeks as part of a comedy showcase but this will be my first solo hour. It’s getting close now as well!
How has it been writing your first hour?
I’m at the point now where I could talk for three hours. But it would be agony for anyone to sit through. I’ve got too much at the minute which is a good position to be in so I’m trying to get rid of stuff and get everything to fit together.
That’s the hard bit really, but I’m getting there. I’m not feeling too bad. I think I should be feeling worse than I do. I feel OK about it all.
How have the previews been going?
I’ve been trying loads of different things at previews. I’ve had a structure for a while and I’ve changed the ending about ten times which I don’t know if you can do that in any other art form. But it’s getting there. Audiences are the best directors I think.
I’ve learnt that I have to make it loose for an hour. I’m more of a writer than a performer so I’m just trying to be looser with it. An hour is a long time for an audience as much as it is for you so you have to watch your pace. You can’t go out all guns blazing, you have to pace it which I’ve learnt through previews.
I’m trying to do something different every show so that it keeps it different for me and it gives me room to go off in different directions.
How did you come up with the title, A Boy Named Pugh? And was it show first or title first?
The show is kind of my life story, and me pitching Josh Pugh: The Movie. So A Boy Named Pugh is kind of from the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue. It’s just a pun and everybody does it so why not?!
I knew I was going to do a show in Edinburgh and I was writing and getting ready for that but I suppose the title probably came before the show was the show if that makes sense? I had loads of material, then the title and then I tried to get the two to match together.
Other people do shows where the title has nothing to do with the show and I’ll probably do that next time. Just pick a word like Carrots and I could just do anything then.
You’ve only been performing for three years, why this year for your Fringe debut?
Yes, to the day almost. With the debut, I probably would have done it next year to be honest but I won English Comedian of the Year so I thought whilst I’ve got the momentum, I might actually sell some tickets off the back of that.
It’s pushed me and made me loads better having this deadline and something to work towards. No matter what happens in Edinburgh I’m glad that I went ahead and did it. You’ve just got to try things out and see what happens don’t you?
Absolutely. So how long have you been working on this show?
I had to go Australia at the start of the year so I had to get 40 minutes worth of stuff for that.
Then I had the idea that that the whole thing would be a pitch for a movie of my life, Josh Pugh: The Movie. It’s all very tongue and cheek. It’s never getting made and would be straight to DVD if it did. It’s kind of a spoof of a life story.
So I’d say I’ve probably been working on it properly since March. I say work on it, it’s kind of always in your head and you think about it, then you do previews and then it becomes a thing.
What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?
I’m looking forward to doing the show but I love seeing other people’s shows. I love seeing stuff other than comedy too to be honest, because you see comedy all year round. My girlfriend will come up for a bit and she’s into dance and I’d watch that kind of thing.
I just like being somewhere else for a month if that makes sense? It feels like the closest I’ll ever get to being in the Olympic village.
Is there anyone in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing?
I’ll probably go and see Terry Alderton and obviously lots of mate’s shows as well. I just like walking into stuff and seeing what’s good when I’m there.
Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?
Surreal autobiographical comedy with jokes.
Josh Pugh: A Boy Named Pugh runs Saturday 5th August to Monday 28th August at the Pleasance Courtyard. Previews 2nd-4th August. No show Tuesday 15th August. Book tickets here.