Having first made her name on ITV’s Show Me The Funny, Ellie Taylor has gone on to be a firm Fringe favourite and this year she arrives at the Pleasance with her fourth show, This Guy.
One of my highlights from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival was watching Ellie’s third solo hour, Infidelliety. I had the pleasure of watching this in a room which had cardboard hanging from the ceiling, a rather loud air conditioning unit and the smell of meat!
Thankfully, when Ellie returns to the Fringe this August she’ll be performing in a much better venue. But what is This Guy all about? Why has she dropped the “Ellie” puns from her titles? And what’s her next TV project?
You must have been pleased with how last year’s show went?
Yeah, I was really pleased. I worked really hard and that’s all you can really ask of yourself really isn’t it? It was really nice that other people enjoyed it as well. A bit of a relief! It was really good fun and I toured it afterwards so that was great.
How did the tour differ from the Fringe?
I don’t know that it differed that much. Obviously it’s not the same room every day. You’re turning up at a venue and you don’t necessarily know it because you haven’t played it before. I guess it’s a bit showier, because when you’re in Edinburgh everyone’s a bit more rough and ready in a way. Because people are traipsing around, they’re seeing a lot of things a day whereas at a venue it’s usually a Friday or Saturday night - it’s their evening out.
Sometimes I put on a pair of heels to treat my audience.
No Ellie pun in the title this year...
Well, I thought I’ve done three of them in a row. Like Adele, I’ll just work in trilogies. Time for a change.
So how did you settle on This Guy as the title?
It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean anything whatsoever . It’s what I say a lot to my husband when he’s asking something and I’ll talk about myself as though “This guy” and he finds it thoroughly irritating. But the way the Fringe works, you have to submit a title and a blurb before... in my case at least... I knew anything about what my show was about. I just had to pick something generic and This Guy was it.
What is this year’s show all about?
It’s all about whether I should breed or not. Bearing in mind that I have the maternal instinct of a pitta bread. So I’m sort of mulling that over I suppose... whether I should be a mum. Whether I want to have a kid. All of that kind of stuff.
How have the previews been going?
It’s been going well! It’s an interesting thing previews, because people sometimes don’t understand what it is and think it’s just a comedy show. They might not have heard of the Fringe, so they might not quite understand why I’m reading notes, why some bits are absolute dog shit. It’s a trial and error kind of thing.
You go to Edinburgh and you kind of know what your audience is like. At a preview, in a little art centre in the middle of nowhere it’s not necessarily the same kind of thing. But it’s quite good.
It’s almost like a bit of a bootcamp. I did one the other night, in the outskirts of London, and I was on at quarter past ten to start my preview. So to do an hour of my stuff after people had seen an evening of comedy is hard work. I did feel inclined to speed up because people were like “My car park’s about to run out!”.
What is it about Edinburgh Fringe that keeps you coming back year after year?
I don’t know really. It’s just what you’ve got to do isn’t it? It’s one of those right of passage things that comics have to do. As much as it can be a challenging experience, it’s a good aim to have in the year. It’s a focus. You work towards it and whether you like it or not, as soon as you sign up for it you know you’ve got to have something in decent shape by August.
So as lovely as the Summer days are now, and all my friends are out having fun and I have to sit in my room and scribble away and be boring. If I didn’t have that deadline in place I wouldn’t work half as hard.
Are you finding it easier now to write the Edinburgh hour?
Well this is my first year that I’m writing it in one year. My first show was a collection of everything that I’d done for four/five years in comedy, then I had a year off, then last year I had my show and had two years to work on that one.
But this one, I wasn’t planning on doing Edinburgh until about January so it’s been a much quicker turnaround which has definitely been a challenge. I wouldn’t say it’s getting easier but this is what a lot of people do. Write a new show in a year.
It’s a real luxury for a comedian isn’t it? To have a full hour to fill.
Yeah, twenty minutes is the usual set so you get to tell a story in an hour. Some people don’t, but I quite like the narrative aspect of it. I like things tying up. I like it being a show, having a beginning a middle and an end. I find that very satisfying. So I suppose that’s where I’m at at the moment.
The crux of the show is in place, so now it’s about tweaking, working out what all the callbacks are and really packaging it up so it’s a complete body.
More audience interaction this year?
There’s a bit. I always like a little bit. I’ll pick out a person and they’re usually my go to person. I just like having that. It makes each show a bit different, you’ve got that interactivity that’s bespoke. It’s a bespoke show that won’t happen again with that person reacting in the same way. While comedy is obviously quite scripted, it’s nice to have a little bit of freedom with it built in to the structure.
Do you have anyone helping you with the show this year?
Yeah, I’ve got the same director that I had last year, Dec Munro. He’s great and has directed Sofie Hagen’s stuff which has obviously done very well. Dec comes along and says if stuff’s not good enough and says “make that funnier”. I’m good pals with a chap called Robin Morgan who’s a fantastic comic and writer. He’s doing the BBC bursary at the moment. He came to see my show the other day and we went through it and to have a different pair of eyes on it is always helpful.
I think a lot of comics benefit from other comics coming to see it and go “Why don’t you put that there?” or “That could be a callback there.” and you go “Of course! I didn’t see it."
You began on ITV’s Show Me The Funny, what was that experience like and why do you think there weren’t any more series?
I thought the premise was good. An X Factor for comedy. But in hindsight I was so new to it all, that if I was doing it now I would probably be more terrified than I was then. Because the premise of the show just isn’t representative of comedy in any form.
You were asked to do 5 minutes, bespoke material, for a specific audience, in front of people like Jo Brand and Alan Davies. There’s no way in any other world that you would ever do new material on telly in front of judges. Within the comedy world you do do new material gigs and you do them in little places and lots of what you say won’t ever be said again. It’s just a trial and error process.
Show Me The Funny was a lot about doing tasks to get the material. It was a nice idea, but I don’t think it was necessarily done in the best way. Which is probably why it didn’t come back. I enjoyed it and obviously it was an amazing thing for me because it meant that I got onto that show without ever having been paid for a gig. I was still working full time so I quit my job in order to do it. It was a funny old way into stand-up for me.
Do you watch shows like Britain’s Got Talent and the rise of comedians on there? In particular Daliso Chaponda this year.
Yeah! He did so well. And he’s got a BBC radio show now. The thing with Daliso is that he was in control of it. He was in control of his set. You get to polish it up and take it when you’re ready. I think any platform where a comic can be found is a good thing.
There are a lot of people doing it and it’s hard to get the headway and be noticed. So I think you’ve just got to take the opportunity when you can and Daliso did really well with that.