I TALK TO Jenny Bede

"I do sometimes feel when I'm not there that I'm being forgotten about."


She's been away from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a year but now Jenny Bede is back with Jenny Bede: The Musical, a show which embraces her love of musicals.


No longer letting her musical theatre training get in the way of her comedy, I caught up with Jenny to find out exactly what that means for audiences and why she believes now more than ever, they're ready for it.


This is your third Fringe hour and a pattern is emerging where you do a show every other year. Is that on purpose?


To be honest, I feel like once I get everything out, I feel like I don't have much to say the next year. A lot of comics will say that's when you'll come up with the most creative material, but at the same time I think let the people who do have something say do a show and I'll wait. And financially, no matter how well you sell, Edinburgh is always a huge drain.


I've also been working on a lot of scripted stuff recently and I haven't found a way to be able to write scripts and an Edinburgh show at the same time.


That being said, I feel like there has been a step back in jobs in terms of my acting, which is fine, I'm not too bothered about it, but there are all these people at the Fringe that come up behind you, against you and in front of you every single year, so I do sometimes feel when I'm not there that I'm being forgotten about.


I'm already thinking that I'll probably do next year. Last year I went just to visit and I absolutely hated it because all I kept thinking was "Why am I not doing a show?" The good thing about taking off a year though is that I'm really excited about this year.


What can people expect from Jenny Bede: The Musical?


First thing to say is that it's not necessarily a full musical. It's kind of about doubling down on what you're good at. I spent a lot of time distancing myself from musical theatre because I wouldn't be taken seriously as a comic or an actor or anything else.


But it's having a bit of a resurgence so I'm life "Fuck it, this is what I think I'm best at and it's what I like doing the most. So let's do it!"


The premise is that I'm trying to write my own Hamilton and write my own part that way. So I've written somewhere between 35 and 44 musicals and I'm doing my favourite songs from some of them in the show.


Even at the beginning of the writing process, I set out to just have a really nice time this year. It hasn't been stressful putting the show together, it's been a total joy actually. I'm really hoping that comes across, but you never know.


You're right, musicals are having a resurgence at the moment. Why do you think that is?


I think sometimes it does go along with what's happening in the world. Most people's problems with musical is that it's so unrealistic that people would just jump into song and I think if you look at what a trash heap everything is politically, because the actual reality is so bleak people are like "Yeah, you know what, let's go with the unrealistic. Let's have something happier."


I feel like it's been a little bit like that with television as well, shows like Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - whilst they sometimes do tackle quite dark issues, there's a positivity to those shows that sometimes audiences want. There are so many dramas on TV and I love dark comedy, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you just want to feel a bit more positive.


I do find that a lot more comedians sing during their sets now.


It's funny, I've spent the last five years telling myself that I'm not a proper comedian because I sing. For me, the reason I do it is because my background is in music. I studied musical theatre, I was in a girl band for a while - both of these things I talk about in my new show. So it was always the backdrop for everything I did.


If you think about how many hugely successful comedians there are, a very small proportion are musical comedians. It's not for everyone and I'm OK with that now. I used to think about taking the music out but now I think "Why would I take out the bit that I do best?"


Who are you hoping the audience will be for your show?


Well, it's interesting you ask that because I didn't want to call my show The Musical because I worried that it might put a lot of people off. It was called something else and then I changed it at the last minute and I'm still not sure it's the right choice.


I just want people to come who are open minded. But I also think it's for everyone because I'm not geeking out about musical theatre in it. There'll be some references of course, but it's not going to be a show you can't enjoy unless you know musicals.


What sort of themes do you tackle across the hour?


At the moment I'm talking about being in a girl band a lot...


Which you've never named...


Nope! You know what, I'm very lucky in that my time in a girl band was in 2001/2002 which was before YouTube so there's very little out there. Also, there was another band registered under the same name so actually when you Google it you get served this Indie band.


But I will be talking about it in the show because we unearthed a music video which is one of the worst things I've ever seen. My boyfriend watched it and could not look at me afterwards! That was when I was 19/20 and really bad at feminism.


What else do you talk about?


I talk about privilege a little bit and ghosts. I have a really ridiculous fear of ghosts and I know at 35 that's completely stupid. I can freak myself out so quickly and I think I've seen one. But I don't want to get into this because people will think I'm mad! But what I will say is that there's a trop of singing ghosts in musical theatre so I visit that a bit.


I got a puppy this year which has unfortunately made me 90% more basic than I already was. So I talk about him a bit. I've been very lucky in the last eight years to be consistently working and on the whole making enough money to support myself.


But I've been very very typecast. I have played about nine receptionists. And it's about walking that very fine line of acknowledging that I've been very lucky and ten years ago I'd have loved my career so I can't get spoilt about things - but, all my friends are a lot more successful than me, which is lovely, but sometimes highlights what you're not doing.


That's part of the reason why I moved more into writing. I won the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Award in 2017 which kick-started more scriptwriting which has been so rewarding. There are lots of brilliant scripts of course, but in so many of them you're basically a moving prop. You're like a girlfriend who rolls her eyes and I'm done with it.


And I think audiences are too.


It's such a "Ta-dah!" moment when Fleabag, Killing Eve, GameFace or Chewing Gum come along because it's something they're not used to. It's something they haven't seen before.


I remember going to see the female Ghostbusters film and having this mad high coming out of the cinema, realising that that's how men get to feel all the time. Seeing themselves fighting ghosts... which actually was quite scary for me! When you suddenly see yourself represented it opens this door of possibilities.


When men write for women, they'll go "Oh we've got this great part and need someone really funny to do it" and then you look at the part and she's maybe just a bit sassy, or a bit of a bitch. Or she'll say something a little bit snarky and that's not the same as a comedy character. That's not someone with comic flaws. It's just someone who says the occasional bitchy comment.


Don't get me w