You might not be familiar with Iain Stirling’s face, but if you’ve watched a little show on ITV2 called Love Island, then his Scottish accent will be very familiar to you.
That’s right, Iain’s the witty, sassy voice of Love Island, and when he’s not narrating the bedroom antics of the islanders, mocking their dates or cueing the texts, he’s a BAFTA nominated children’s TV presenter as well as being a stand-up.
2016 marks his fifth outing to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and having sold out with his four previous shows; Happy To Be The Clown? (2012), Iain Stirling At Home (2013), Everything (2014) and Touchy Feely (2015), he’ll be hoping that his latest show Onwards! does the same.
What came first? The show or the title?
It was a little bit title first to be honest with you, because you’ve got to come up with a title in like January/February, when you’ve not really written anything.
But I did know that the vibe of the word ‘Onwards' was right and I knew that I wouldn’t mind doing something with that for the show.
What is the show all about?
Basically, it’s about millennials and how they’re perceived by society and how we see society currently. How our upbringings, our relative political apathy given how we’re being screwed by the system yet still not fussed by that fact.
Obviously now with Brexit and all that, I haven’t written any of that into the show yet because it’s still new and changing at such a rapid rate that it’s unbelievable. We’ve now got a prime minister no one voted for, a leave campaign where everyone our age, I’m guessing, wanted to stay in Europe, we’re now leaving Europe... so it’s just that weird thing of what do we do? How do we deal with that?
That’s the general idea behind the show.
How long has this show taken to put together?
I do Edinburgh every year so when it finishes in August, I get to September and pretty much start writing the next one. It’s sort of a never-ending cycle really. You’re always trying to do new material, and if I don’t do new material I just get bored.
Pretty much every year I write a new 50 minutes. That’s kind of my rule of thumb. I’ve been a lot busier this year though so it’s been harder.
Do you like the pressure of writing a new show every year for the Fringe?
Yeah I do really like it. I don’t think I’d write as much as I do if I didn’t have it. If I didn’t go to Edinburgh I probably wouldn’t write nearly half as much material as I do because you take to the stage a couple of months before where you’ve got a joke which maybe isn’t working, and if you didn’t have the time pressure of the Fringe, you just wouldn’t do it.
So you have to go think, “Right, I’ve written this now, so I’m going to have to make it work, otherwise I’ve not got a show.
How have the previews been going?
Obviously I’ve just done that Love Island thing so I did a few before I went, I did one in Brighton last night. That was my first gig back so that was hard, doing an hour of stand-up having not done any stand-up for six weeks, with a show that you’ve not fully written yet.
The audience were... let’s say, forgiving. They were very forgiving. But it was fun, so I’m basically previewing it all the way up until the start of August. That’s the idea.
All four of your shows have sold out. How important is the Fringe to you?
Well I love it man. To become a better comedian it’s invaluable, because you do an hour of comedy every night for a month. When you’re not big enough to tour, you can’t really do that.
If you wanted to, you could do fifteen gigs a day easily. And it just makes you a better comic. It’s the same with any job, if you do it lots over a short space of time, you get better at it. So on that level it’s really important.
Also, I’m from Edinburgh so I grew up obsessed with the Fringe and can’t quite believe I’m in it!
How does a Fringe audience differ?
I don’t think a Fringe audience differs hugely. The difference is that they can be harder, because say I’m on at 7:30pm, everyone in that room has already seen at least one more show before me.
So normally, a comedy audience is coming to your gig once they’ve finished work where they’ve been bored all day and you can come out and read the Yellow Pages and they’d think “well at least it’s not my boss being a dickhead!” (Laughs)
Whereas in Edinburgh, they could have been to see Daniel Kitson, James Acaster, Stewart Lee and then come to mine. So if they’ve been to see those three people, their expectations would be too high.
Not only that, but if they’ve already been to see two comedy shows that evening, we’ve all done it, they might have booked it a week in advance and go “You know what, let’s not bother with this. Let’s just go home”. I’m not being self-deprecating or having a go, but just that’s the difference with Edinburgh audience.
When you go around the country a lot of people go “Yeah! It’s my night out!”. In Edinburgh, sure, a lot of people do do that but some people are also like “I’ve seen loads of stuff today, this better justify it.
Are you hoping to see much whilst you’re up there?
Yeah. That’s kind of half the reason that I go to be honest. I love it and there’s loads of stuff I want to see. Nish Kumar I’m a big fan of. James Acaster which we mentioned earlier. I want him to win an award, which would be nice so then everyone else can get a shot after he stops getting nominated! (Laughs)
Luke Kempner’s show I’m really excited about. I saw a little bit of that last night so I’m looking forward to seeing the final thing with music and all that. It’s quite cool seeing someone do 90 characters and a storyline and all the rest of that.
Also, I always say to him as a joke that everyone has a tough gig when they get to Edinburgh, but if he’s done a tough gig, he’s still being impressive. Even if you don’t find it funny, you can’t deny the fact that he’s done 50 impressions and a storyline on stage as one person!
If I have a tough gig, it’s just me talking, and anyone can do talking. So I’m looking forward to seeing him. Josie Long as well, I think she’s only doing a work in progress, but I’d be really interested to see what she does given what’s happening politically.
Oh and Steve Bugeja as well. He won the BBC new comedy award a few years ago. His show last year was genuinely in my top three shows I saw last year so it’ll be interesting to see what he does this year. Difficult second album!
Now, I have to talk about Love Island. I have been hooked! It’s just been a brilliant series and so well received, why do you think that is?
It’s weird. Mates have told me and I have read a couple of things, because people send me the occasional article where Love Island gets mentioned, so I did know it was more popular than last year, but I had no idea it was this popular! Easily double the ratings.
The thing I think it does, and the thing I think a lot of reality shows might try and copy now is that it just doesn’t take itself seriously. It looks amazing, it’s so well made.
Take for example the dates, generally speaking I’ll take the mick out of those dates, but I know the whole location team that film that, and the editors that put that together and I know that they’ll make it better. Which means that we can slag it off and call it an empty restaurant, because it looks so good that it doesn’t matter.
What have been your highlights from this year’s series?
I think I said this on the live show, but if I was writing a sitcom I couldn’t write a scene better than this - when Liana was screaming at Adam because he said he was going to “fuck her and chuck her” basically, and then he just sat there not saying anything eating a rice cake! (Laughs) It was mad. It was mental! That’s funny anyway, a big beefcake getting caught out, and then just the rice cake... it was brilliant!
All the Scott and Kady stuff. Kady in that hideaway - they’ll probably say they did - but I can’t imagine the execs thought putting Olivia and Kady in that hideaway would work as well as it did. That was mental. MENTAL. She was perfect.
And then when she screamed the c-word at that girl, but then the next day went on a rant about how she used the c-word and was only joking. You think, you’re so immature it’s unbelievable. All she had to do was say “I’m sorry I called you a cunt. It won’t happen again."
Instead, she created this fantasy world where her mum calls her a cunt... So those are my favourite. Also, I had no idea that the toast thing was such a big deal for example. I had no idea! That was just a one-liner throwaway thing.
What was it like meeting the islanders?
I met the finalists, and the main thing when you meet them - and I hope one day you get the honour of meeting them, I really do - is how ridiculously attractive they all are. During that final show when you see them at the bar in the villa with just normal people, you notice them. You can see them!
Not only because I’ve been watching them on telly, but they just look different to normal human beings. They’re just all so stunning. They are. Especially Alex and Olivia. Those two just look incredible, it’s mad. It’s absolutely insane.
Are you happy with the winners Nathan and Cara?
Yeah I think so. Given the nature of this show, I think that someone who I genuinely think will make that work on the outside is a good winner. So I’m glad about that.
I thought Alex and Olivia might sneak it at the end, because I thought they were quite sweet, how they both kind of came round, but I think fair’s fair and Cara and Nathan earned themselves a bit of cash. Six weeks together and not a bump on the road. Fair play to them.
There’s going to be a third series next year, congratulations! Are you already looking forward to it?
They’ve not asked me yet officially, but I’d like to think I’m going. It’s really good.
You have to! The voiceover has just been brilliant this year...
Thanks. I think, obviously the voiceover is good and I’m happy with how it went, but I feel like the voiceover wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for the edit, the way they cut it, the music they use etc. I think everyone’s just nailed so I think everyone on that show will think to themselves that they’re going to be coming back. It was just brilliant. It was perfect TV!
And finally, coming back to the Fringe, how would you sum up the show in just 5 words?
A very funny comedy show.