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I TALK TO Eleanor Conway

Eleanor Conway debuted her first Edinburgh hour to a free audience last year and this August she’s returning to the Fringe with a 70-minute version of Eleanor Conway’s Walk of Shame.

Last year, Eleanor enjoyed sell out audiences and immense critical success on the free Fringe and since then has been honing the show on a national tour and is bringing this new version to world famous comedy venue, The Stand at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I recently caught up with Eleanor to discuss how she first got into comedy and to find out why she’s bringing the same show back to the Fringe rather than debuting a brand new hour.

How did you first get into comedy?

I used to be a music journalist and got into comedy three years ago. I did my first gig ages ago but I didn't have the balls to pursue it properly so I decided to get quite drunk for a few years.

Then I got sober about three years ago and it felt like nothing could be more scary than that so I started comedy.

I started doing open mics and set myself a challenge of doing 100 gigs in 100 days. I'm quite obsessive with stuff like that so I thought if I set myself quite a broad goal like that, then I wouldn't get put off if a gig went badly.

Sometimes you get to affected on things on a gig by gig basis and you can't really look at things like that. You need to look at where you are in a much longer timeframe.

Part of me when I started was being very unrealistic but it's part of my nature to go "If I do this gig I'm going to be on Live At The Apollo next week. There's a part of me that's like that and I get very frustrated when it doesn't happen.

But that's something I've learnt in sobriety as well, this level of consistency and working on something day by day that you maybe look back on in six months and see the growth rather than having a quick fix and going "Hurrah! I'm here!" because that's not how life works.

You performed this year's show at the Fringe last year which in many ways was your debut. What was that like?

Yes I did. It was amazing. I've been at the Fringe doing chat shows and hosting but you're right, this was my first debut show.

I went up and I was really scared and just really wanted to get through it. That was the main aim. To get through it and not be shit because it's such a personal show.

The response was really heartwarming. I was in a free Fringe venue and I had crowds of 200 some nights which was ridiculous. I went up with no PR and I got some lovely reviews and then I got home and it was such an anti-climax. So I thought what can I do?

I'm completely sober at that point so I need to fill my time because I've got a lot of time on my hands so I spent four months putting a tour together and then I went on a 30-date tour in Spring and that sold out quite a lot. Honestly it's ridiculous.

What do you think the appeal of the show was that meant it was received so well?

I think because it's a bit raw and you can see that it's a bit rough around the edges and there's something in there for everyone. There's the light-hearted Tinder obsession, drink and drugs recovery which I think people are interested in and then there's some really dark moments.

So it goes from light-hearted Sex & The City to darker moments like drug use and then it really touches on some dark and vulnerable moments. I think it's nice to see that shift between gregarious confidence and then a real vulnerable moment which is a bit of a plot twist.

And there's a tie-in to being a modern addict which we all are now. It's accessible for everybody.

How is it for you to revisit those deeply personal moments?

I'm not going to lie, I nearly had a breakdown in Edinburgh because I'm reliving quite unpleasant moments. I don't know how I'm going to feel this year.

I feel like I've been able to distance myself from the events now, just in the way that I'm not so much in it now. The beautiful thing about this show is that by writing the show I was able to focus on one thing and I'd never really done that before. I'm quite scatty. I've always got pots on the stove.

But with this, I've been constantly working on it so there's an element of consistency and now that consistency is starting to pay off which is in turn starting to up my self-esteem and confidence. I feel a lot more confident about what I'm doing now. It's moved from this period of wanting everyone to hear me and desperation because I'm sober to feeling like I've moved on a bit. I've got a tour under my belt and I'm at The Stand this year.

You must be pretty happy to be performing at The Stand this year?

It's fucking great. Pardon my French. To have that validation because all my favourite people like Bridget Christie play that venue.

I'm outwardly quite confident but inwardly, as we all are as performers, we are just craving some validation from people. So I feel really good. I'm really excited and then I've been offered another slot at a free Fringe venue so I'm also going to be writing an under-the-radar second show.

How has the show moved on from last year and the tour?

From a personal performance point of view, I think I took on quite a big subject matter for someone that's not particularly experienced in doing stand-up. I've got a lot of performance experience, I've done lots of live hosting, but I feel like through Edinburgh and the tour, I relaxed into it.

There's an element of confidence in the performance now that I wasn't able to tap into last year at the Fringe. So just being able to grow that within the same show, or the same format that I had last year, has just been a real learning curve.

If you come to the show again this year, it's the same show but it's not the same show. Things are a lot more cohesive. I know what I'm trying to say. I've mixed up the format so it's a bit more cohesive and I take you to a dark place but I'm more aware that I'm taking you there and I tie things up a bit better.

Why have you called it Eleanor Conway's Walk of Shame?

Because I thought that title would sell tickets! It comes from that persona of being a party girl. There is a sort of tangent in that I'm walking you through my shame and at the end realising I should have no shame.

Why have you chosen to bring this show back to the Fringe rather than a completely new hour?

Because I wasn't ready. I've got an Autumn tour lined up as well, I got Europe and am doing another twenty dates in September and October and then I've got Spring dates.

For me, the touring model has been very important. That's what I want to do, I want to be a touring comic so I just wasn't ready to put on a new show and I don't want to put on shit.

I'm still learning and developing Walk of Shame and because I'm doing my own producing, it takes a long to time to put that into action and to be honest I got a great offer at The Stand. If I'm going to come and do something at The Stand I want to make sure it's something tested and something good. I want it to be something that people are going to come to and think it was worth the ticket price.

I'm a relatively new comic and I know the pressure is to do a new show every year at the Fringe, but I think you've got to be aware of how the business works.

If I'm touring, the people that I'm performing to, it's going to be the first time that they've seen me. Edinburgh isn't the be all and end all, it's one part of the puzzle. You've got to be realistic about why you're going to Edinburgh.

Why are you going to Edinburgh?

To be able to perform amongst some of the best comedy in the world and to connect with and build an audience.

What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?

Not being as stressed as last year! I can't wait. It's going to be quite a relaxing year. I know the show works and the branding's done. The Stand are taking care of everything. I'm doing a low pressure show on the free Fringe. I know where I'm living and who I'm living with so hopefully it's going to be a very relaxed Fringe.

Sara Pascoe, Fin Taylor, Fern Brady, Rob Broderick and I want to see Trainsporting Live, I've still not seen that.

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

Sex. Sobriety. The modern addict.

Eleanor Conway’s Walk of Shame runs from Friday 4th August to Sunday 27th August at 10:35pm at The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4. Previews 3rd August. No show Monday 14th August.

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