Having made his debut in Edinburgh as part of a sketch group in 2010, Jack Barry’s debut solo hour wasn’t until 2015 and now this year he’s back with his third solo show, High Treason.
Jack is one half of sketch group Twins (with Annie McGrath), who this year aren’t performing at the Fringe which means Jack can focus entirely on his solo hour. An hour which actually carries a serious message - why we should legalise all the drugs.
As he prepares for High Treason, I caught up with Jack to find out more about the show and the future of Twins.
How have the previews been going?
Good I think. Very good. I’m hammering all the previews at the moment and I had quite a sticky one last week but other than that they’ve been alright. You do learn from the sticky ones but sometimes what you learn is that you should never gig in Corsham in Wiltshire ever again. Because they are dry and hate comedy.
What’s been good is that because this show is quite serious, my first couple of previews were basically TED Talks. It was like a lecture. I did lots of research and then I’d just present my facts at a comedy club. But then afterwards I could go, right, let’s actually make this funny. It’s constantly changing. Constantly getting worked on.
You’ve been performing at the Fringe 2010. What keeps you coming back?
It is addictive I think in a weird way. I’ve been performing since 2010 but I’ve been going since 2008. I went with my parents for a holiday and after two years of going as a visitor I thought I had to come back and perform. My parents still go out every year.
You get such a buzz from it. It’s sort of indescribable. There’s such an amazing atmosphere and there’s something about it that bites you and keeps you going back. I’ve always been obsessed with comedy so from being a fan to being a comedian it’s the place that you’ve got to go every year to see what’s going on.
It’s hard to describe to people who haven’t been. Once you go, you’ll get it. It’s a pretty stupid holiday in a way because it’s so expensive and you’re only going to Scotland where it pisses it down every day. But it’s worth it in a weird way.
Having an hour to fill where you’ve got total control is a real luxury isn’t it?
Yeah it is, definitely. It’s a good way to showcase yourself. A lot of the time, especially being an up and coming comedian, you spend your time on the comedy circuit going to comedy clubs. The stuff you can get away with at comedy clubs and what you can get away with doing your own show are very different.
When you’re doing comedy clubs you’re having to do quite mainstream, relatable stuff that people in a comedy club in Nottingham will find funny. But when you’re writing your own hour, that’s your time to write about what you really want to write about and what you think is really funny.
It’s your chance to find your fanbase of people who agree with you on what’s funny and what’s not. It’s really freeing in that way.
What is this year’s show all about?
It’s all about drugs. It’s something I’m very passionate about. When I was younger I was very anti-drugs and like most school children I had the anti-drugs message drilled in to me from an early age.
In the last few years I did research into drugs and drug policy and I realised that actually, the way we police drugs and the way we deal with drugs in this country could be improved if we thought a bit more about the way we regulate drugs.
So there’s quite a serious message in this year’s show?
It is a serious message within the show and it does sound like a serious show. There are serious moments within the show but actually it’s dealt with in a humorous way.
What came first? Was it the show or the title, High Treason?
It was the show really. I knew I wanted to do a show about the legalisation of drugs and wanted to call it a silly name like Jack Barry’s Doobie Doobie Spliff Time, but my director suggested that because it’s a serious topic it needed a serious name.
So I went with High Treason because it’s a taboo topic that people don’t like talking about and it’s a pun. So hopefully people know that they will laugh and they will have a good time.
How long have you been working on this year’s show for?
I came up with the idea for it in the car on the way back from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so I got straight back to it really. So I came up with the idea and then I started writing with a vengeance in October I’d say.
This will be my first full year from Edinburgh to Edinburgh as a full-time comedian so I thought I’d use the time properly and just hammer it as hard as I can. It gives me more time to chew everything over.
What’s been good is that because this show is quite serious, my first couple of previews were basically TED Talks. It was like a lecture. I did lots of research and then I’d just present my facts at a comedy club. But then afterwards I could go, right, let’s actually make this funny.
Do you have anyone helping you with your show this year?
My show is being produced and directed by Berk’s Nest this year, who are an up and coming company who I’ve worked with for a few years. They’re really amazing. There’s three of them and they produce and direct the shows that they take up so they’ve been helping me structure the show and put it all together.
They’ve got a really good track record. They did Richard Gadd’s award-winning show last year as well as Jayde Adams and Kieran Hodgson who were both nominated for comedy awards. They’re a really new, young and exciting group. I went to University with one of them so I’ve known them for years, so it’s exciting to be working with your mates on something.
What’s happening with Twins?
We’re just having a year off this year. Last year we were both doing Twins and an hour of stand up and for some of the year we both had full-time jobs as well, but it was just too much. Trying to write a whole two new hours of comedy and have an office job, it’s just insane.
I think we were both a bit burned out after last year so we thought let’s take a year to focus on our own show and then we’ll revisit it in the autumn and see how we feel.
She’s up there this year with her show and weirdly we’re in the same room back-to-back. She’s the show before me and I’m right after. Someone said it’s a bit like when Outkast did Speakerboxx/The Love Below. That’s what we’re doing.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
I’m going to see loads. I previewed with Nick Coyle yesterday who I was really excited to see anyway and it is phenomenal. And it’ll only get better when it gets to the Fringe so I thoroughly recommend going to see him.
I love seeing Sean McLoughlin’s show every year. Mae Martin, I love seeing her show. Rose Matafeo, I’m really looking forward to seeing her.
Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?
Laugh at drug legalisation please.