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I TALK TO Eleanor Tiernan

"The relationship that survived was the one of me and comedy and not the one of me and the guy."

Comedian and writer Eleanor Tiernan is returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with Enjoying The Spotlight Responsibly, her ninth show in twelve years and her eighth as a stand-up. The show promises to be an exploration of what, if any, satisfaction can be found from being without a smartphone and thrown into the real world, and whether she’s willing to endure the requisite amount of discomfort to get it.

During our chat, Eleanor looks back on how she first got into comedy, her first ever Fringe show - a play she wrote with her cousin and reveals more of what's in store for audiences this year.

How did you first get into comedy?

I started in Ireland, where I was living at the time and I guess how I first did a stand-up comedy gig was because I was going out with someone who was starting it himself - so initially I went along in support of him, but it soon became something that I thought I could do.

So I had a go, loved it from the second I started doing it and the relationship that survived was the one of me and comedy and not the one of me and the guy. It was a good relationship in that way in that he gave me my comedy career, so that's good.

Can you remember your first Edinburgh?

My first Edinburgh was slightly different in that I wrote a play with my cousin which we did at the Gilded Balloon so it wasn't actually stand-up comedy. The play was called Help and it was about a comedian who's really struggling in her career - I was doing stand-up comedy separately so I'm not sure if that's what inspired the show or not. Looking back, it might have done.

You've been back to Edinburgh many years since, as a stand-up, what keeps you coming back?

I still love it. I still love the openness and the freedom that's up there, the artistic bravery people take up there. They're willing to try and I still think that's very strong within the Fringe. Of course the Fringe has changed a lot since I've been going but that side of it has remained. It's not always rewarded as well as it should be.

I certainly notice myself that I tend to have a lot of respect and admiration for performers who take creative risks. I don't necessarily need to see it work out very well, I appreciate the chance that performer took and the trust they put in the audience by taking those risks.

What can people expect from your show this year?

My show is stand-up comedy, storytelling and basically it's an inventory of the humiliation that I am going through and what modern life has become. I hope I'm articulating it in a way that people who come and watch it will identify with it.

When people go into recovery, for drug addiction or alcoholism, they have to deal with the four steps which are basically them going through an inventory of all their behaviour and go around making amends to people and apologising.

For me, this show is like a fourth step for embarrassment and embarrassing things that I've done and have to own up to.

How long have you been working on the show for?

Pretty much since I finished my last show so I would have started it around Christmas time, but some of the material in it is stuff that I've observed over a longer period. It started to become a show around January.

Explain the meaning behind the title, Enjoying the Spotlight Responsibly?

I guess the spotlight is down to a kind of sensitivity that all of us need to have now about our work and how ethically we live our lives. I guess it's taken from the Drink Aware ads where they say "Enjoy Alcohol Responsibly" but I don't think it should stop there, we have to enjoy anything we do responsibly.

I like the idea of exploring that in a comedy show because comedy is meant to be a release so there's a fine line there between the two.

How have the previews been going?

They've been good. Up and down as they should be. I find the process excruciating as always because you have to go from doing a show that's well-received to going back out doing material that's just at the beginning of its life, which naturally is not going to be as strong. You forget how embarrassing it is doing previews, the truth about yourself is revealed.

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?

One thing about Edinburgh is that you get to stay in the same place for a month which is a gift for comedians, we're not actually used to that. We're used to going from place to place and doing a different show in a different place every night. As places go, Edinburgh is a pretty nice one to be in for the whole time.

And I'm also forward to seeing what other comedians are doing.

Anyone in particular?

One of my favourite comics is Sean McLoughlin, I think he's really really great. I'm looking forward to seeing Adam Hess as well. I find him very good. Nish Kumar is always brilliant. Tiff Stevenson is someone who just gets better and better every time I see her. She's so good.

Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?

A personal inventory for humiliation.

Eleanor Tiernan: Enjoying the Spotlight Responsibly runs from 3rd-25th August (not 15th) at 2.20pm at PBH's Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth (Chamber Room). Book tickets here.


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