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I TALK TO Charlie Baker

Comedian Charlie Baker often likes to do something different when he returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and this year he's turning his hand to a children's show with the help of his wife Sam Battersea and a plastic goat.

How did you come to the decision to do a kids show this year?

I always try in Edinburgh to do whatever's come out of my mind that year. Be it a stand-up show or a play or a music show or whatever. I try to see Edinburgh as quite fluid.

This year, I'd written this children's story as a book and then I looked at it again and I thought "Oh no, this is definitely a show. I can definitely make a show from this." I've always had this mild longing to write a one man musical. But then I thought that's slightly too arrogant to think that someone would watch just one person sing a story for an hour.

I'd seen loads of kids shows and I love them. A lot of the kids shows have so much imagination in the way that they tell stories and the way they do narrative and create moments is absolutely brilliant. Some of the best shows I've seen in Edinburgh, certainly the most creative, are for children.

When you're in Edinburgh and you've got kids, and you're up because you're up, you're not getting in at 4am and lying in until 6pm and then panicking and doing your show. You're up at 9am and if it's your turn to look after the kids, you're looking for something to do.

How did your wife get involved?

Ah yes, so in this story there's two people, a narrator character which is me and a woman who's played by my wife, Sam Battersea.

She's in Class Dismissed on CBBC and has a history of doing Edinburgh. A while ago now but she was in a double act. So we just discussed it and she read it and if I'm honest I'd forgotten how good she is and absolutely right for the character. So I knew we'd have some fun doing it.

We've got an 11-year-old and a 2-year-old as well so then of course you sit down to sort out logistics of family life and you go "Oh God! Who's going to have the kids?".

Have you enjoyed working with her?

Oh it's been awesome. This period of time when you're a stand-up can be quite stressful and can be quite lonely so every three or four years to collaborate with people and make a show together is like a warm bath. It really is.

It's still as hard, you still have the same anxieties about Edinburgh and whether your show's good enough but you're sharing it.

Has seeing other kids shows previously inspired you to do one yourself this year?

I think Edinburgh is a good place to launch it. The way that we're coming at it is that we're not based on an already published book or story. Which most things are and obviously from a producer's point of view and also an audience's point of view, it's difficult to take a risk with kids, because if they're bored you're in trouble because they're shouting and miserable.

We're based on an original story so I think that's going to be part of the battle. To get people to come and see something fresh and new but hopefully I've got enough of an Edinburgh track record to know that what I do is great fun and it's not going to be offensive. It's going to be a right laugh and I'm silly enough to get that across.

And also Sam, being in Class Dismissed on CBBC, which is a BAFTA-winning show will also bring in its own audience. But also, because it's not based on anything and we're pretty confident in it, and how we're showing it. I think people will be really surprised and really enjoy it.

When you do Edinburgh normally you preview, how does it work with a kids show?

We're previewing to groups of kids. We've started small. We literally did it for two children, not our, and their mums and dads obviously, we didn't just take them off the street.

They enjoyed it and we asked them for feedback, then we did it for twelve children and we're doing in my son's school class on Friday which will be 30 because it's a comp and then on Sunday we're in Tring and that'll be our first theatre one which will be 50-100 and then it starts to get a bit more serious.

It's like writing a comedy script really because we're creating it and writing it at the same time rather than sticking to a script. That's what I'm trying to bringing to the world of kids shows. That stand-up ethic of it being so instant.

Rather than going around the houses which a lot of kids shows do because they're got a ten-page book that they have to stretch over an hour.But because we're starting from a longer point of view, it does feel more like bringing an Edinburgh stand-up show to life.

What can people expect when they come to watch?

There's a real heartbeat to it. It's all about living your best life. How can you live your best life. What is the best way to live? How do you be the best you? That's the message because al kids shows have a message don't they?! So we had to have some sort of message otherwise they'd go "Where's the flipping message?".

It will work on more adults than just kids. Adults will enjoy it as well because obviously Sam and I are used to playing to that audience. We've invented our own musical genre which is Clip Clop which is Hip Hop but with a folk music angle, so what I'm saying is it's like hip hop... but worse.

But it tells a story so there are little songs that take the narrative along which are good fun. We've got live animation in it and I'm not going to say how we do it because I don't want anyone to nick the idea before we do it!

There's a plastic goat. Not a real goat. You can't have a real goat... imagine the smell! It's going to be smelly as it is with however many kids turning up.

When you're doing a stand-up show, you want laughter from your audience. What are you after from your audience this year?

I still want laughter. But you also want that sense of wonderment. That you've broken their brain a little bit and within that crack you've put some light and they can see something that they may not have seen before. But then you should try and find that in any show shouldn't you?

I suppose that's what art is. To try and increase your imagination in your brain, but with kids, you see it happening as you're doing it.

We've got a really bad baddie in the show called Farmer Doug, who's really nice to begin with and then all of a sudden is horrible and you just see kids who are furious. That's the thing with kids, their emotions and their reactions are so much more on the surface.

They physically hate this man. I mean, I play this man. I play sixteen characters. I mean, let's be fair, a lot of it is me doing a different style of voice, putting on a hat or in a different pair of glasses.

What's your favourite thing about Edinburgh?

I just feel like it's the place where you can go and create anything and take anything. So you can be genuinely creative. A lot of the time it's too expensive to do that but I think just to do a stand-up show every year I would have felt like I'd missed out on a lot of creative possibilities.

Stand-up is my first love and I love comedy and I'll always be a comedian but I see Edinburgh as a chance to do exactly the sort of thing you selfishly want to do or whatever's in your brain that year out.

I love doing the clubs. I'm a filthy nightclub comedian and I love doing that and that pays my mortgage. I love doing solo hours. My favourite thing is to turn up at a village hall in the middle of nowhere and do an hour to people who don't normally have any entertainment. That's my absolute favourite thing.

Edinburgh is an arts festival so I think you should try and do the arts! Be the arts and create! The reverse argument is that I should concentrate on stand-up and write funnier hours but it's my life, you can't tell me what to do and you're not my real dad!

Who are you looking forward to seeing up there this year?

Suzi Ruffell is just amazing. I've known Suzi for ages and we're pals so it's difficult to say it without sounding biased but she's found a new energy, a new delivery, a new thought process and something has clicked. I think what it is is she works so hard. She's done years on the road, not just in clubs but supporting big acts and going out to cold rooms and she's just found it.

Rosie Jones. I've been working with Rosie a little bit in the last year, we've been trying to write something together. Rosie's got cerebral palsy which is the last think about her and you don't want to say she's inspirational, but for me she has been.

She never complains. She never moans. I like a moan as much as the next middle-class white forty-year-old comedian. She's never worried about where her gig is, she'll just get there, do it. She takes that on stage and that's why audiences love her. Talk about finding your voice, but she really has because she speaks slowly, she's had to find a way to make her comedy work and she's so funny and smart.

I tell you who really makes me laugh as well, Ivo Graham. He makes me properly laugh. I tell you who I'm pleased is back, Arnab Chanda. He disappeared for a bit but now he's back and doing his first hour. He's a funny guy.

Oh and there's a guy from Scotland, Christopher Macarthur-Boyd, who's doing his debut. I saw him do just a ten-spot at a charity night and he's got dome really good jokes. Really big funny stuff.

There are a lot of people I go and watch normally who aren't on this year. Like Spencer Jones, I adore what the man does.

Outside of the Fringe what are you working on?

I'm already starting next year's show and have been trialling stuff already. So I'm trying to write a stand-up hour for next year already which I'm working really hard on. I'm gigging a lot.

Several things in development as ever, but I've come across an idea for next year's show and it's really making me laugh so I'm going to be previewing that from September/October.

I am one of the hosts on a new app called Q Live which is one of my dreams come true. On your phone wherever you are, at 8 o'clock most evenings I'll be there and it's always been my dream to be a quiz show host. This came in and I went "Yes please!"

Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

Living your best life. Now.

Charlie Baker Presents: The Greatest Goat of All Time runs from 2nd - 26th August (Not 21st) at 3pm at Assembly George Square Gardens (Piccolo). Book tickets here.


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