"There's pressure as a woman in comedy to take yourself seriously and use your time on stage to make change in the world."
Each year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Jayde Adams seems to get better and better at what she's already very good at, which is entertaining. Her jokes get funnier, her vocals get more impressive and the number of sequins on stage increases.
However this year as she returns with her fourth solo show in as many years, The Ballad of Kylie Jenner’s Old Face, Jayde has taken a new direction, packing away the sequins and glamour (for now) and replacing them with a serious black jumper, a microphone and some blue uplighting. Why? To be taken more seriously and as I sit down with Jayde in her kitchen to discuss the show, it seems as though it's already working.
During our chat we discuss the origins of the serious black jumper, the reason for the change in direction and talk about how she's found putting this year's show together.
This is your fourth Edinburgh show, is it inevitable now that every August you'll be performing at the festival?
I want to say it's not, but I've already come up with next year's show. I know what I'm going to do next year so I hope that the year after, 2021 is the year I have off. I'm hoping it's that one but I keep coming up with the show I want to do next year, the year before.
How did you come up with the idea for this year's show?
It was when I was making The Divine Ms Jayde and I had a line in the show about feminism that I was so pleased with that I felt I could cultivate an entire concept around and it was about the black turtle neck. So I mentioned it in the last show and in fact all my shows have that in, they each have a tiny bit in them from the one before and feed off each other.
I was developing the way that I feel about the world and I'm learning as a stand-up to think about things I care about. When you're Mrs Entertainment which I have been in the work that I get, it's great that people now think I'm warm and that I can do that and speak to the everyman which is what I want.
I'm also really clever and I think sometimes the sequins, the big hair and the gowns have masked that slightly because people are quick to pigeon hole me as the entertainment girl. But actually I care about stuff, I'm passionate about things and I have sympathy for situations that I can relate to myself.
What can people expect from The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face?
Someone described this show as an argument I'm having. I have a point and I'm going to spend an hour proving it.
There's pressure as a woman in comedy to take yourself seriously and use your time on stage to make change in the world. I had some bad advice from someone who I don't work with anymore about not getting the same opportunities as other stand-ups when it comes to panel shows because people don't take me seriously as a stand-up because I do all the bells and whistles and there's big songs.
I was like "No, I'm a stand-up. That's what I am." - I write and I tell jokes, that's what I do. So I started to think to myself - what does that mean? How would I take myself seriously? And that is by wearing a black turtle neck and talking about issues.
Where did the title of the show come from?
I was with Richard Thomas and we were thinking about song titles for possibly writing a few more songs for The Divine Ms Jayde and we were fannying around in his studio and he said "Name me something else we could write" and I said "What about the ballad of Kylie Jenner's old face?" and he burst out laughing.
I really liked the title and kept saying "Let's write the song" and then I said the title to a few other people and they laughed and then I realised that the stuff I want to talk about sort of is about that situation.
It's not me taking the piss out of her, there is a little bit of Kardashian humour in it but it's more sympathy I have for girls like her. She should have been told by her mother that the face that she had at 17 was just fine and that she was going to learn to love her thin lips - thinish lips - they're not even thin! And it doesn't even matter if they are she was going to learn to love that, grow up and change the way she feels about her face before doing all this irreversible stuff to her body.
I don't begrudge anyone having any work done but I believe that in a perfect world, people - in particular women - won't feel the need to have that done. So whilst we're trying to strive for equality, body confidence and female empowerment, I don't find getting work done empowering in any way.
But I'm also saying this from the privilege of youth. I'm 34, fat has not cracked yet. You've never seen a wrinkly balloon have you mate? Except for one without air in it. My point is that if you are young and you're a young girl trying to fix happiness by getting work done, I think you're doing the exact opposite. It's going to be an itch you'll never scratch, but I scratched that itch through years of putting up with people shouting things out of cars at me and being fat shamed by elevators and chairs. You learn to deal and adapt.
Another conversation I'm having is that we're growing a generation that don't have an armour and I have a conversation with an old woman during my show about what she worries about and she tells me that she worries about how the youth are manufacturing trauma from so many different areas. No one is united against one enemy which they had when she was younger which was Hitler.
So I talk about the sadness that I have for the youth because they don't have that armour and the show is about me instructing the audience into having it. I'd love it if young teenage girls came, that's why I put Kylie Jenner in the title as well so that I wouldn't be screaming into an echo chamber.
When did you first become aware of the 'Serious Black Jumper'?
It was Dapper Laughs apologising in a black turtle neck on Newsnight in 2014 after he made that joke and I just find it hilarious. Me and another comedian Darius Davies made a spook of it which I never did anything with.
It was just something I noticed and I started collecting them which led to the joke I made in my show last year and I soon realised this was a thing. Then people started sending me them and I now get about three a day. It's become a hashtag and I'm going to sell them as well this year. So it's going to be a black turtle neck with 'Serious Black Jumper' written on them. There's going to be 'Serious Black Phone Case' and 'Serious Black Umbrella' - I'm not sure if I'll get all this stuff done, but there are plans.
Have you found it easy filling that hour and making that point?
I've had too much material which has been great. My first preview was an hour and ten minutes long and I feel like this show is the one where I'm showing off skills I haven't shown off before. I'm a writer as well and normally someone with my background isn't often considered in that way.
Every single week I've made a mistake I've been like "Shit, I need a costume. Where's my costume?" - let me have what Rich my boyfriend refers to as my crutch. Now I've just stripped it back and it's just me, a black turtle neck and a microphone. I make my point by telling stories about things that I've experiences.
How are you enjoying this new Jayde and is this is it forever?
No of course not! I've spent too much on sequins. I've had all the colour and all the jazz for so long that it's been really nice to challenge myself and write an hour of stand-up with no bells, no whistles - I mean, there's a projector and visual representation for some of the stuff I'm talking about, but that's as far as it goes.
For me, Edinburgh is all about taking myself out of my comfort zone. Last year I wanted to write music. I've never written music before, I play piano and I sing but I'm not trained in theory or anything like that, so writing music was really hard. The year before that I challenged myself by adding more than one song in a show and the year before that was me turning a story into an hour-long show essentially.
Each year, I try and set myself a little achievable task so whatever happens in my career, there's something I've achieved that isn't a huge career defining situation that could go right or wrong and make you feel sad or depressed.
Also, this jumper has changed my life. I was booked to be on a panel alongside Scarlett Curtis and they were asking me what I felt about offensiveness in comedy. Then I was on BBC Radio 5Live talking about body positivity with Luisa Zissman and the other day I was on Sunday Morning Live on BBC One discussing the cancer advert comparing obesity and smoking as the same thing. And there's more coming!
I feel like my voice isn't often in a room. I'm working-class, my parents have worked for what they've got and they've done well but we didn't always have money when I was growing up - and girls like me sit in Superdrug with these insane talents.
School is a merit system and if you are not the brightest one in the room getting the best grades, all of the teachers ignore you. When you're a loud working-class girl like I was they try and kick you out of classes and you end up not being a voice in a room. That's what I've had. This jumper has made people listen and actually I quite like it. But it's because I look like I'm taking myself seriously.
You're in the same room this year. Happy to be back there?
Yes I've got a great room in the Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Two, I had it last year and I'm really looking forward to doing something different with is this year. It's going to have blue uplighting on the curtains and make it look like an Apple iPhone launch.
How have the previews been going?
Most of them have been great. I've had a couple where I've considered quitting comedy as we all do, that's just a regular occurrence over preview season. I always do as many previews as I do shows in Edinburgh - and that was Spencer Jones who told me to do that - so after 26 previews you just know you're ready.
My normal audience know I'm trying something new, they're excited about it and are just praying to God that I haven't made a mistake and it's not shit.
By the time I get to Edinburgh it'll be a fully scripted show and every show will be the same. I've never done that before either, I tend to know what I'm doing and do what I want. That's another thing that's taking me out of my comfort zone.
Markus Birdman, another comedian, has been really helpful in that he'll listen to previews and help me tighten up some of the jokes. If I've got a joke with 50 words in it, he'll get it down to 10.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?
Doing it every night. I'm looking forward to those shows where I think "Oh my God I'm going to be famous!" - they're the best ones and you have a pocket of those over the month so I look forward to those and normally that first Saturday is the best one.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform?
Good question. Rich Wilson. Eleanor Tiernan, she's fantastic. What a great stand-up she is. She's really good. Jordan Brookes because what is he going to do?! Maisie Adam, she's amazing.
I don't normally see much when I'm up there because I sing, so I have to basically be mute. I can't drink, I've got to sleep and laughing is really bad for the vocal cords so basically my body has been a temple for the last few years but I've got none of those problems this year!
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I take a bit of my inhaler. I tell myself I'm funny. I get palpitations a lot - I did a gig at the Palladium with Harry Enfield and I did not do well. I was terrible, I didn't die die but I wasn't great. I was very nervous. Me being stood next to Harry Enfield is not the way things should be.
Sometimes, I'll have a little white wine! I don't always do that but if I'm uber nervous or I've had a tense day and I need to be super loosey goosey I'll have a white wine before. But it's not a regular occurrence because I don't want to be an alcoholic.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
I've got a lot of work coming in at the moment which means I'm not dependent on Edinburgh this year for the trade fair it normally is. I've got quite a lot of work to come back to. My diary is full until February.
I've got some great TV shows coming up, one of them you already know about which is the Amusical special on Comedy Central. We've also got an Amusical podcast coming out soon with some great guests. The two I can confirm are Ed Gamble and Zoe Lyons but we've got loads more in the pipeline.
It's basically going to be me, Kiri (Pritchard McLean) and Dave (Cribb) talking musicals with a guest of ours as well as their experiences of musical theatre, whether they went to see it as a child or didn't make it into the school plays. If you're into musical theatre, comedy and podcasts then this is the one for you.
I've got my stand-up special which is being filmed on the 21st September at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London and then I've got a few other projects that have not been announced yet, but they will be.
You co-hosted the BBC's Eurovision podcast with Scott Mills. What was that like?
It was great! I'm really pleased BBC Sounds asked me to go up because I wondered why they thought me and Scott Mills would work, but it did. We had great chemistry together and he's really funny as well. He's funny on Radio 1, but he's not as funny on there as he can be. He's so dry and quick-witted. I asked him to do stand-up and he said "No fucking way!"
He's really professional and no ego really. He's been a star on radio for years! You'd expect him to be incredibly starry, but he's so humble. And after 18 weeks of Eurovision I really love it now. I'm not sarcastic about it. I'm truly impressed by Eurovision and what it is. I'm not alone either. We're one of the only countries who are sarcastic about it really.
We all love Graham but he's very sarcastic about the show but if we actually got a bit of positivity and passion behind it and cared about the act that was going up, maybe we'd do a bit better. We pay for it, but no one in this country cares about it.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
Fourth wave feminism. By Jayde.
Jayde Adams: The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face runs from 31st July - 25th August at 9.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Two). Book tickets here.